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Should Failure Be Rewarded To Spur Innovation? 146

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-ruined-all-the-backups-here-is-20-bucks dept.
Lucas123 writes "Paper products maker Kimberly-Clark drove the morale of its IT infrastructure group into the ground after massive firings and outsourcing. When they hired a new VP of Infrastructure four years later to turn things around, he implemented a program to spur innovation. The VP took a venture capitalist approach where any employee could submit an idea and if accepted, make a pitch in 30 minutes or less. If the idea had merit, it received first, then second rounds of funding. If not, the employee's idea still got lauded on the company's internal Sharepoint site. As he puts it, 'Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. It's about what we learn from the failure. Not the failure itself. We celebrate that learning.'"
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Should Failure Be Rewarded To Spur Innovation?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2012 @08:30AM (#39605841)

    Until Morale Improves.

    • Risk some capital (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2012 @11:09AM (#39606607)

      Upper management tends to consider itself enlightened, whereas tech are just low-level functionaries who could not possibly grasp the basics of budgeting and return on investment. They never trust, even their most senior and proven people, to come up with ideas which would benefit the company in the long run. If management can't see the benefit themselves, then there is no benefit and money should not be spent.

      However, technicians have an important perspective on the company's needs which can only come from having your head down in the trenches. They see opportunities for gain that upper management cannot see, and will never see, despite their importance and reality. Furthermore, some of their technical agendas can't directly translate to numbers despite their real value.

      Therefore, truly enlightened upper management will accept a measure of risk, devoting some development bandwidth to the ideas being put forth by their technicians, even though management doesn't quite understand the value. Its true that some of that money might get wasted, but the gains will more than offset the costs.

      Unfortunately, such an attitude requires a level of respect and humility not generally found in corporate executives.

      • by jhoegl (638955)
        Yeah, they tend to put themselves in a bubble which leads to this "enlightenment" feeling.
        I often bring them into reality with their ideas through requirements, considerations, and costs.
        I constantly tell them to bring it to me first so I can show them what it would take, but they would rather shoot off their mouth in a meeting and then feeling like an asshat when I show what it would take.
      • by ultranova (717540)

        However, technicians have an important perspective on the company's needs which can only come from having your head down in the trenches.

        More to the point, someone who does a job daily inevitably ends up knowing more about it than someone who doesn't, even if the latter is a genius with a Doctorate on Everything. Consequently, the former knows how to do the job efficiently while the latter doesn't, so any attempt of the latter to actually manage the former tends to lead to problems. This then explains an o

    • Meanwhile in the banks....

      The Bonuses Will Continue Until Morals Improve.

  • Is this a joke? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2012 @08:32AM (#39605845)

    If not, the employee's idea still got lauded on the company's internal Sharepoint site. As he puts it, 'Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. It's about what we learn from the failure. Not the failure itself. We celebrate that learning.

    Really? Seriously?

    I'm supposed to be motivated by a mention on a sharepoint site?

    • Re:Is this a joke? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by discord5 (798235) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @08:45AM (#39605881)

      I'm supposed to be motivated by a mention on a sharepoint site?

      Hey, it takes hard work to get into the Hall Of Shame page on the company sharepoint. Not only do you need to shoot yourself in the foot, but you need to do so in public for everyone to see.

      That moment you go for a cup of coffee and all the people around the watercooler stop talking, that's the moment you know they've seen the Hall Of Shame page. You should bask in the glory of your achievement at that moment.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Who determines if a project or a direction is worthy of being accepted? The same people that laid off and outsourced everyone, this single VP? How does he stay on top of all of the technologies to know if they are good and sound decisions?

      Where I work, we are about 80% virtual and on a path to be 95%+ virtual with our servers in the next year (about 800 servers spread across 10 locations). We are also about 15% virtual with the desktops and on a path to become at least 50% in the next year (2000 desktops

      • by ATMAvatar (648864)

        Who determines if a project or a direction is worthy of being accepted? The same people that laid off and outsourced everyone, this single VP?

        Even in the summary, it mentions this VP was hired after the firings and outsourcing to turn things back around. This VP's job is to deal with the smoking rubble which is the current IT employee morale.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        How does he stay on top of all of the technologies to know if they are good and sound decisions?

        He pays people to stay on top of the technologies and make good and to make good and sound proposals.

        1. The employee submits the idea - they need to include enough background and explanation for him to judge it.

        2. The employee gives a preentation on the idea - they need to include enough background and explanation for him to judge it. Probably answer questions too.

        3. If it still sounds good then they get funding to start their project, then further funding depends on actual results.

    • by Nos9 (442559)

      You might be surprised at how being mocked by your peers is a motivational factor.

      I see the sharing in either case to be a tricky way of publicly shaming really stupid ideas, and a good way to show off those decent ideas.

    • Re:Is this a joke? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by realityimpaired (1668397) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @09:18AM (#39606015)

      I'm supposed to be motivated by a mention on a sharepoint site?

      Actually, yeah. Think of it this way: by sharing the idea publicly, there's opportunity to improve it. Just because it's not being developed now does not mean that there's no chance of it being developed tomorrow.

    • Re:Is this a joke? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tixxit (1107127) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @11:10AM (#39606619)

      No, you are supposed to feel confident that the higher-ups like someone who takes a risk and pitches an idea, even if it doesn't pan out. That they'd rather someone take the risk and pitch their idea, rather than sit on it, thinking they would get laughed out of there and lose the respect of their bosses. The main goal is to remove the self-doubt.

    • I'm supposed to be motivated by a mention on a sharepoint site?

      No, you are supposed to be motivated to make sure that your project gets funding instead of being just stuck on a sharepoint site. This is actually a very smart thing to do - it gives credit to the submitter for at least trying and puts the idea out there to see if others can improve on it. At the same time the "reward" (such as it is) is far less than a successful idea so it does not eliminate the motivation for success. Seems like a very clever system...I'm sure whoever came up with the idea for it got m

    • by Ritchie70 (860516)

      It sounds OK to me.

      You had an idea, and did the work to get it in front of decision makers. It didn't work out, but they still like that you tried.

      In some companies, you'd get a negative mention on your review or worse if they didn't like the idea.

  • Playstation network engineers, or fire them?
    • by Ksevio (865461)

      They weren't innovating anything - they just had to run a secure network (something that's established and has been done).

      This is about coming up with new ideas, but giving people credit for the new idea even if it doesn't work out.

      • Right. Because a idea isn't a failure even if the implementation is. I've had great ideas that when implemented badly turned out very bad. However after retuning the implementation a couple iterations ended up being grand successes. The hard part in some of these things is knowing when an idea is bad, and when the implementation is.

        FYI, ideas are bad if the assumptions for the idea are wrong. If the assumptions are correct, then it is the implementation that is bad.

  • Better phrasing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mseeger (40923) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @08:42AM (#39605867)

    What they don't do is "rewarding failure". They hand out incentives for trying. Subtle differences between those two....

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Absolutely spot on. Rewarding failure doesn't encourage innovation. Not punishing failure does to some extent. Acknowledging taking initiative does so even more.

    • Re:Better phrasing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by smpoole7 (1467717) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @09:02AM (#39605957) Homepage

      > They hand out incentives for trying. Subtle differences ...

      Correct. Good point.

      If you want to find a miserable employee, just look for the guy or gal who's working for a moron who thinks everything can be accomplished with a bullwhip. Anyone who's a decent manager knows that it's stick ... AND carrot. And it has to be sincere, too. I appreciate my assistants and try to tell them that on a regular basis. And yeah (answering someone else's post here), they DO appreciate mentions and little letters from the company president. If it's a larger company, a little recognition goes a long way.

      I encourage my guys to be creative. And here's the most important thing: I have a rock-solid rule that I beat into their heads. "If you screw up, if you break something or make a mistake, as long as it's an honest mistake, come admit it and we'll fix it." Now, if you're horsing around or slacking off an break something, I'm gonna hammer you. But if it's an honest screw-up, we'll fix it and move on.

      My brother used to do food industry, and he told me the best story I've ever heard about that: fast food joint. Busy, busy, employees scrambling behind the counter. An employee drops a couple of burgers and the manager screams at her. A few minutes later, she drops something else, he threatens to fire her.

      So ... sure enough, it's crazy, everyone is scrambling ... she drops something else. Some fries go on the floor. She looks around in a panic, notes that the manager isn't watching .. . .. . and quickly picks the fries off the floor AND PUTS THEM BACK IN THE SERVING BIN.

      I've never forgotten that story. Being the PHP From Doom every time an employee makes a mistake simply means that they'll start covering them up ... and so you've now got a computer running with an obvious bug, or a microwave link with a broken connector that's taped back together (true stories both). And you don't even know it!

      Carrot AND stick. And it has to be sincere, too. Not something that you force yourself to learn.

      • A good reason not to eat at places with abusive management. I have walked out of places because f the way they treat their employees.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Me too... although I verbally abused that Manager before I left too :)

          Scenario: Went to get fast good, we order, manager starts screaming at a young (maybe 16-18) employee (can't remember the reason now but it was something trivial and stupid).
          Response: Myself, and three of my friends (who just finished Boot Camp a few weeks before), decided to verbally abuse this shithead; I'm pretty sure we were good and intimidating and he really looked like he was ready to shit himself as we walked out...

        • A good reason not to eat at places with abusive management. I have walked out of places because f the way they treat their employees.

          That's why management at those places are instructed never to chew out employees in front of customers. I guess the instructions won't stick with the more abusive ones, if you care enough you can probably notify someone higher up the chain about the abuse.

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        Morale is critical for security as well. Yes, a company can browbeat employees about security, but if they don't give a flying fsck because they know they are the low bidders, only the bare minimum gets done.

        Contrast that to a company that actually does make an attempt to look out for its employees and contractors. People would tend to be more alert and proactive in finding security issues, or actually pay attention to the security policy because they know it affects them.

      • "Carrot AND stick."

        Depends on the context, see Dan Pink on motivation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc [youtube.com]

        Or Alfie Kohn's "Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes":
        http://www.alfiekohn.org/books/pbr.htm [alfiekohn.org]

      • by rossz (67331)

        f you want to find a miserable employee, just look for the guy or gal who's working for a moron who thinks everything can be accomplished with a bullwhip.

        On the first day of a new job I noticed the manager did nothing but walk around yelling at and abusing everyone. He never asked anyone to do something, he yelled at them. Shortly after lunch he tried that with me. My response was simply, "fuck you", and I walked out.

    • by walkerp1 (523460)

      What they don't do is "rewarding failure". They hand out incentives for trying. Subtle differences between those two....

      Cause and Effect, my love.

    • by slasho81 (455509)

      If you reward trying, you'd get people feeling entitled and expecting to be rewarded for effort and not for actual results. Why is this bad? Just look at the US education system.

      What needs to happen is:

      • Trying should be encouraged, but not incentivized.
      • Success should be celebrated.
      • Failure should not be punished, unless it was caused by negligence or malice.
    • by smchris (464899)

      Indeed. I don't hear the statement saying that every employee is a uniquely valued snowflake. One can read a bit of the opposite in the tone, really, if the idea presented turns out to be stupidly thought out, but it expresses an open and non-punitive philosophy on the part of the company to keep an open ear to ideas that seems very reasoned.

    • Re:Better phrasing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday April 07, 2012 @10:11AM (#39606277) Homepage

      This is the point that I wanted to make. They're not offering a greater reward for failure than what they're offering for success. They're not rewarding failure, they're rewarding employees who make worthwhile attempts, even I father fail. There's a big difference.

      Failure is generally a precursor to success. You try, you fail, and you try again. Eventually you succeed. Unfortunately, our culture has such a stigma around failure that we don't understand this. We think it's appropriate to punish a person for failing because we think that discouraging failure is the same as encouraging success. It's not.

      Growing up, I had teachers and family members trying to discourage failure, and I'm sure they meant well. The actual result is that I spent years of my life afraid to try at anything unless I was sure I'd succeed. I missed out on a lot, and the damage is irreparable.

      We should be encouraging people to be interested and curious, to be willing to take a shot even if they don't quite know what they're doing. There are many consequences that *should* dissuade you from trying something, but embarrassment is not one of them.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      Yes, but it goes even farther. Kimberly Clark (and the remains of Scott Paper which it bought in the 90's) had gone through massive cost cutting and outsourcing, tens of thousands of jobs were cut in the name of reducing cost. When a company gets chainsawn like that the survivors (or in this case the replacements) won't do anything that might draw the attention of the next round of slash and burn management. Keep quiet. Hit your numbers this quarter. Period.
    • by Ice Tiger (10883)

      Too right, it's the difference between playing to win and playing not to loose.

  • Alan Kay (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @08:43AM (#39605871) Journal
    Alan Kay is always a good source of quotes (including, paraphrase 'I said that 30 years ago! Why does no one ever listen to me?'), but one in particular is relevant here:

    If you're not failing 90% of the time, then you're probably not working on sufficiently challenging problems

    I think I'd find failing 90% of the time completely demoralising, but it's certainly true that if you never fail then you're probably not exploring really interesting possibilities.

    • I think I'd find failing 90% of the time completely demoralising, but it's certainly true that if you never fail then you're probably not exploring really interesting possibilities.

      The truly demoralising thing is working for truly moronic and disgustingly selfish pigs time and time again, company after company. The only "interesting possibility" for me is to just continue getting a paycheck and provide for my family which I love coming home to every night. This is why I choose a mediocre job precisely because I don't want to put myself in a situation where failure is a possibility.

      Capitalism doesn't reward failure, despite what executives want you to think. When you fail the hungry

      • by trout007 (975317)

        The problem is you can't predict ahead of time what will be successful. So if you never try you will stagnate and die. If you try and have some successes and some failures as long as you can identify and cut the failures before too much resources are spent you will come out ahead. Also often a project may fail but sets you up for future success.

      • Capitalism doesn't reward failure

        No, it does reward bold success. The point is that it doesn't care about how many times you fail, but it cares about how bold your success was.

    • Re:Alan Kay (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jpate (1356395) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @09:37AM (#39606105) Homepage

      I think I'd find failing 90% of the time completely demoralising, but it's certainly true that if you never fail then you're probably not exploring really interesting possibilities.

      relevant [biologists.org].

    • In my time hanging out in Hans Moravec's mobile robotics lab at CMU in the mid 1980s, Hans said much the same thing. He suggested that good research had to involve a lot of failures, and that is why so many of the straight A students you might think would be best at it are actually temperamentally unsuited for a career in research. He suggested people who have some experience dealing with many early failures early in life were more likely to have the persistence needed for a career in research.

      Of course, re

    • by digsbo (1292334)
      Wow. I've been asking myself why I'm bothering trying classical piano at 36 - it's a constant, continous source of frustration, with tiny rewards every few months when I get a short piece semi-playable. It fits that pattern perfectly. Funny thing - if I didn't have the experience of knowing this was how it would be from the time 20 years ago when I studied classical clarinet, I'd give up every time a particular passage seemed completely impossible. Amazing what a person of average talent can do when per
  • Real rewards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pmontra (738736) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @08:43AM (#39605873) Homepage
    I wonder if the employee which proposed the idea is appointed to implement it or if s/he gets a share of the money the company makes or saves.
    • by Tom (822)

      It's pretty common here in Germany for company to pay out cash rewards to employees who suggest an improvement.

      A couple decades of experience show that most stuff under such a system is small day-to-day operation stuff. Real innovations simply don't work well as a written-up proposal. You need a budget up front (even if it's small, or just a time budget), you need some experimentation and iterative refinement.

      But those small improvements also add up and most companies are very happy to have such a system in

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday April 07, 2012 @08:46AM (#39605885) Homepage Journal

    Failure is its own reward IF YOU LEARN SOMETHING

    If you don't, YOU DON'T DESERVE A REWARD

    Sorry for massive caps, but I didn't feel bold or em are emphatic enough.

    • Unless you don't think of it as something to learn from, which is all too common.

      Innovators always try to understand why something did not work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2012 @08:54AM (#39605911)

    I teach a robotics class for 9th-12th graders using NXT Mindstorm. I have a number of challenges which are difficult to finish by design. When I grade, I tell them they are supposed to fail, and the grade is not for failing to achieve the task, but how they overcome that failure, and (as important) how they formulated a new solution as a team. I look for progress in working towards a goal. Since we have a time constraint on each challenge, often half the teams will not reach the goal.

    But along the way, I see some very interesting solutions and innovative ideas. Once I take away the risk of failing for not achieving goal "A", the students become much more daring (or as daring as you can be with Mindstorm robots) in trying out new ideas to the problem. This is my second year doing this class, and I have two teams going to the state robotics competition.

  • by Raxxon (6291) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @09:08AM (#39605971)

    Share the "failure". Let others take a look at it. Let someone else take a stab at it.

    The "Reward" in this case sounds like they're recognizing employees who are making an effort to change things. They are providing information about the project attempt and letting others know what's going on instead of sweeping it under the rug and ignoring that it ever happened.

    Done PROPERLY I can see this being a major positive, especially for morale. "Hey, Bob went to pitch his idea today, but it didn't pan out. I think I see what killed it and I might have a solution for that..." Granted I also expect massive backstabbing if this is implemented wrong. Instead of collaboration it can very quickly devolve into theft and sabotage.

    • Learning is a desirable consequence of failure, but failure isn't a prerequisite for learning. You can learn during your attempt and not fail, or you can give up early and not learn. It's up to you, it only depends on your attitude and your persistence.

      Just my €0.02.

      • by Raxxon (6291)

        I would argue that you learn more from the failure than the success.

        • by Lazy Jones (8403)

          I would argue that you learn more from the failure than the success.

          That depends on the situation. I'd say you learn from trying (from each attempt), whether you fail or not. If you fail, you might have another go more quickly but if you succeed, you might learn other things along that path.

          • by Raxxon (6291)

            I can get behind that to an extent. Yes, you do learn either way. With success however you generally have a few options on "follow up learning" whereas with failure you step back, evaluate the the how/why of it failing, reassess your original position and then start forward again. The how/why determination is a missing component when you succeed and can offer up an insight on a number of things possibly not related directly to the problem at hand.

            Learning does occur (if you're paying attention at least) eit

    • Granted I also expect massive backstabbing if this is implemented wrong. Instead of collaboration it can very quickly devolve into theft and sabotage.

      The only reason to expect something like that is if the company actually gave a significant financial incentive to employees for their innovation, and if there is one thing I learned about the IT industry in America, it is that the actual IT workers get little more than a pat on the back for innovative problem solving while some some political hack gets all the financial bonuses.

      • by Raxxon (6291)

        Sadly, been there done that. Too many times. :(

        The suck factor is, you wind up with some management types "hoarding" their talent pool. They'll get the benefits while their Minions do the work. And that will be the start of that nasty downhill slide of backstabbing....

    • Done PROPERLY I can see this being a major positive, especially for morale. "Hey, Bob went to pitch his idea today, but it didn't pan out. I think I see what killed it and I might have a solution for that..."

      You're "pitching" your idea to the VP of IT. Isn't the VP supposed to be somewhat intelligent on IT subjects?

      If someone else can take your idea and successfully "pitch" it with some changes then isn't the VP "playing favourites"?

      Otherwise, wouldn't the VP have been able to help you with the problems and

      • by Raxxon (6291)

        Yes and no on the first part. You pitch the idea, the VP doesn't sign off on it and cites reasons (actual reasons not "I don't like the color"). It's documented and placed in the "public view". I come along, look at the idea and modify it. I have a different perspective on the problem and I actually make an advancement/improvement of some kind. I pitch the idea and the VP signs off on it.

        Depending on how THAT aspect is handled would determine how good or bad this process goes.

        The second part is more or les

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Or am I misinterpreting the story?

  • Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omnifarious (11933) * <`eric-slash' `at' `omnifarious.org'> on Saturday April 07, 2012 @09:09AM (#39605981) Homepage Journal

    This guy's way of encouraging new ideas from the employees is a good one. But publishing the failures on a website runs the risk of the website becoming a 'wall of shame' instead of being seen as a reward for having presented the idea in the first place. It also runs the risk of having people submit ideas they know are ridiculous just so they can be given whatever reward comes for presenting an idea at all.

    But otherwise his head is screwed on straight as far as I can tell. He's right, it's very difficult to create an organization that rewards new ideas. Almost everything in business is set against this. It's why so many big companies 'innovate' by acquisition. And punishing failure makes the problem worse.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      What is a failure at one time may be a success at another. It doesn't matter how good your solution is if the time or business model is wrong.

      Streaming video like YouTube would have been a complete failure if launched in 1991.

    • This guy's way of encouraging new ideas from the employees is a good one. But publishing the failures on a website runs the risk of the website becoming a 'wall of shame' instead of being seen as a reward for having presented the idea in the first place.

      Here's a simple question: How much does a failure cost you, and how much does a success make you? If I come up with an idea that was good enough that it _might_ work and create a million dollars profit, and the company spends $10,000 figuring out that it doesn't work and why, and you come up with no idea at all, who do you think is more likely to come up eventually with an idea that works?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Get a government bailout, and start issuing bonuses with the money.

  • by Shoten (260439) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @09:13AM (#39605995)

    The title of the slashdot posting missed the point entirely. The point is not to reward failure, but instead to accept it. Failure is an inherent part of moving forward, especially when it comes to innovation. You can't honestly expect every attempt to have a 100% success rate, and if you restrict all new efforts to those which you believe have almost no chance of failing...well, you won't be making many efforts at all. Does anyone remember how many people were skeptical about the first iPad, groaning about the price, about how it wasn't enough to be a computer (which you could also buy at the same cost) but wasn't able to serve as a phone? A failure-intolerant environment would have listened to those concerns, and the iPad never would have launched. And what a mistake THAT would have been..

    • I don't think the way our lord Jobs did things provides useful examples for others. As an example, just replace IPAD by any other tablet, and see how it sounds... ie. if RIM had not introuced the Playbook... if you take a probabilistic case, no-one should be launching tablet products, because apple's are the only ones that sell.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Did anyone ever really make a concerted effort to sell tablets to the masses before Apple? It's certainly true that they existed; I have one of the very oldest, a GRiDPad 1910. And I have its later, smaller cousin which some effort was made to sell to consumers, the 2390/Zoomer. But frankly, most consumers have never heard of it. The iPad, on the other hand...

        It makes you wonder if someone else might have been able to do it, but then the question becomes who. Maybe if the BeBox had been a tablet (it would h

        • 1992 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compaq_Concerto [wikipedia.org] . Palm could have grown their devices but didn't, apple tried with newton, windows tablet edition 2005 was originally a demo by MS in 2000. There was a lot of marketing effort around newton and the XP tablet edition, but they didn't sell. Anyone had been looking at history would have given it the thumbs down. Indeed, that's what the analysts were saying.

          The point is that what has been done before isn't a good indicator of the future because techn

        • Did anyone ever really make a concerted effort to sell tablets to the masses before Apple?

          Yes, but the problem was that they were all hardware manufacturers. Apple was the only company that could make the hardware and also rewrite the software stack to be entirely based on touch for input. Earlier tablets ran operating systems designed for either mouse or pen input and most tried to run legacy software. Few people liked them, because the UI sucked. If Apple had shipped the iPad running OS X and existing Mac apps, it would have been a failure.

        • Don't know whether they made a concerted effort to sell it (it was around this time they went a bit barmy strategy wise) but there was the Psion Pantypad

    • Failure is an inherent part of moving forward [...]

      I can't say for sure if this is an original idea or not, but allow me share it anyway:

      "Failure is an inherent part of moving forward, as each successful step is a failure to fall over."

      Could use some fine tuning, but I think there might be a motivational poster in there somewhere.

  • The problem with the approach of that VP is that it is NOT HIS MONEY he is playing with.

    Certainly almost anybody can come up with dozens of ideas for a 'business', ideas, as they say, are dime a dozen. What makes an idea work is implementation, a lot of sweat, a lot of resources dumped into it, some luck (hopefully you have at least a little bit of that, otherwise sucks to be you).

    But the problem with the approach of that VP is that he is not the one taking the risk, he is placing the risk upon the company

    • by Bieeanda (961632)
      Yes, and all of that is why only some of the submitted ideas are granted a pitch meeting, and of those only some of those are granted any degree of funding. This isn't some internal dot-com craze where everyone gets a million shares and an Aeron chair just for showing up.
    • What makes an idea work is implementation, a lot of sweat, a lot of resources dumped into it, some luck (hopefully you have at least a little bit of that, otherwise sucks to be you).

      Ahhh yes... pulling yourself up from your bootstraps or some such garbage.

      If there is one thing I learned about business, it is that when it comes to success, hard work is probably #3 in importance. First and second is who you know and blind fucking luck respectively. People who still believe that successful wealthy people got that way from working harder than everybody else are deluding themselves.

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        Who you know and luck are important, but nothing will happen with crazy amount of work and sweat. I know people who started their store chains from scratch, people who have other types of businesses, some in IT, some in manufacturing. It take insane amount of work to get their businesses off the ground.

        I am running my own businesses, working all the time. I am posting on /. when I am in front of a computer between compiling code, checking how the installations are doing. When I go for business trips, you

        • by roman_mir (125474)

          but nothing will happen with crazy amount of work and sweat.

          - without crazy amount of work.

          I have NEVER worked as hard when I was on a permanent position (95-2000) and when I was contracting for other companies (2001-2009) as I have to do now, that I am running my own IT business, selling products that I built myself.

          The idea that people just have to be lucky and just know the right people - this idea obviously is true for a number of cases, such as POLITICS and government protected monopolies (banking, insurance, military, energy, education, food, whatever).

          When i

  • It sounds too much like something Dunder Mifflin would do.
  • by Nimey (114278) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @09:22AM (#39606035) Homepage Journal

    A salesman once screwed up and lost a contract early in Microsoft's history, then appeared before Bill Gates expecting to be fired for his mistake. Instead Bill told him that his job was secure, because (I'm paraphrasing like mad here) he'd learned a valuable lesson and knew an approach that would not work next time, so it was better for the company to keep him rather than hire someone else without this experience.

    Not a new idea among clueful bosses, in other words.

    • by john.r.strohm (586791) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @10:18AM (#39606317)

      That may or may not have happened at Microsoft.

      It is a repeat of a story that happened decades earlier at IBM, back when Watson was running the company. The hapless salesman had just cost the company MILLIONS of dollars, when millions of dollars was still real money. He expected to be fired. Supposedly, Watson said something like "I can't afford to fire you now, not after spending millions of dollars on your education!"

  • In hockey, the most prolific scorers attempt a *lot* of shots. Many are blocked, many miss, many are saved by the goalie. But a few are goals. Gretzky said it best: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
  • by Tom (822) on Saturday April 07, 2012 @10:08AM (#39606263) Homepage Journal

    While it's a cute idea, they're still trapped in a binary, aristotelian model of the world that isn't adequate at all.

    Very few things in the real world really are clearly distinguishable as "success" or "failure". So we introduce arbitrary criteria, but these fail us as often as they are useful. A lot of innovations came out of "failures".

    The solution isn't to reward failure - it is to do away with the concept. So I failed that arbitrary milestone or project goal. Unless the project was a customer request, the real question should be what was actually accomplished.

    Because it cuts the other way around, too. One of the unsolved issues of capitalism is the focus on short-term goals and "success" measured in quarterly numbers. It is a massive incentive for deciders to take large, but hidden, risks. Quite a few companies have gone broke only months after paying their executives huge bonuses for their "success".

    Because too few people ask the question what it really means for the company to have raised its market share to arbitrary value X and reduced its personal cost to arbitrary value Y while maintaining some arbitrary ratio or key figure at arbitrary value Z.

    Because a proper look at failure also requires a proper perspective on success, I doubt we will see it happen, because too much money is in the illusion of "success".

    • While it's a cute idea, they're still trapped in a binary, aristotelian model of the world that isn't adequate at all.

      Very few things in the real world really are clearly distinguishable as "success" or "failure"

      That would be success or not success.

      • by Tom (822)

        That is exactly what I'm talking about. The real world does not conform to the assumption that everything either is "A" or "not A". Quite often, we find that we need to define a new category just to fit something in.

        You earn $5 today. You set yourself a goal of earning $6 tomorrow. You manage to earn $5.99 - failure?

    • Very few things in the real world really are clearly distinguishable as "success" or "failure". So we introduce arbitrary criteria, but these fail us as often as they are useful. A lot of innovations came out of "failures".

      You set up goals. If you've accomplished your goals, you succeeded. If you did not accomplish them you failed. It's not arbitrary, it's as simple as asking, "what did I intend to accomplish when I started, and did I or did I not accomplish it?"

      Maybe, while you failed, you stumbled upon something that was actually far more rewarding than your original objective. That doesn't mean you didn't fail. You failed at accomplishing your stated goal. However, you also learned from your failure and achieved succ

      • by Tom (822)

        You set up goals. If you've accomplished your goals, you succeeded. If you did not accomplish them you failed.

        You earn $5 today. You set your goal at $6 tomorrow. You manage to earn $5.99 - failure?

        Goals are useful, but we are completely overdoing them by fixating on the goal instead of the purpose of the goal. Anecdote: When navigating on a lake, the easiest method is to pick a target on land and steer towards it. Say a high tower or a mountain. But you always know that the target isn't something you are actually trying to reach. It is just a helper.

        I'm tired of the PC world, especially when teaching children, where we tell everyone that nobody fails

        I'm with you all the way on that. People need to be told clearly

        • You earn $5 today. You set your goal at $6 tomorrow. You manage to earn $5.99 - failure?

          I'll start by saying that I think we're actually in agreement, and I misinterpreted your position in the first post. This is just semantics, and what you call an "analog criteria" I call "degrees of success" and "degrees of failure." Obviously being short one cent is a small failure. Similarly, if you expected to make $6 and ended up making $6,000, your success is worth a lot more than if you had just achieved your goal of $6. That said, the reason I still like to define your $5.99 as failure is because

          • by Tom (822)

            This is just semantics,

            This is where we disagree. I consider semantics to be very important, not a "just" matter. Language shapes our thoughts and more importantly, politics. Language is important, and calling things by their proper names is very, very important. If I were king of the world, I'd make 90% of advertisement illegal by one simple requirement: That commercial speech (a badly needed category, btw.) must be truthful in that every statement made can either be shown to be true or is not made in the form of a statement of

  • Not that there's anything wrong with that. But how much innovation do they expect, and how high do we expect employee morale to climb? Comparisons to Microsoft and Google elude me.
  • im supposed to give them more money to try again? what kind of bullshit is this?

    im not against innovation, but im against blatantly unfair corporate practices, where you have one class of people who fuck up their way to the top, while masses of people get fired if they show up a minute late or lose 25 cents of material on a production line.

  • "Paper products maker Kimberly-Clark drove the morale of its IT infrastructure group into the ground after massive firings and outsourcing."
    They rewarded failure by doing this in the first place.
  • During his formative years, I told my son, "An idiot keeps making the same mistakes. A smart man learns from his mistakes. A wise man learns from others' mistakes and avoids them." That didn't stop him from making mistakes, but he never made the same mistake twice, nor made obviously avoidable mistakes.

    Sometimes you try and you fail. Learn from it and move on.

  • It makes you wonder how long Edison would have lasted in an environment where failure is severely punished. However, throughout the history of technological advancement, failures are often taken up by others who introduce new elements to the solutions and make a success out of the original idea. Apple it a prominent example. Xerox PARCs approach was interesting but as Jobs put it "They did a bunch of things wrong."

    That being said, today's American culture of giving out awards for participation is total b

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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