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Organisations should make it 'safe' for staff to fail


Risk-taking can be useful for advancing a career, but employers should ensure failure isn't seen as a negative

Organisations should ensure their staff know they are "safe to fail", according to Nick Telford-Reed, director of technology innovation at e-commerce firm Worldpay.

"You need to enable failure," Telford-Reed said, speaking at the Everywoman Advancing Women in Technology 2017 forum. "It can happen in careers or in product development. But it's important to remember that a lot of things will not work. You need to create a culture in which it is safe to fail, and that can celebrate failures as they were an attempt to do something different."

He explained how risk-taking had shaped his own life. "I worked for a company drilling wells in the North Sea," he said. "It was the kind of firm that gave you an estimated salary grade for when you retired. I took a risk and decided I didn't want to be locked in a steel box any more.

"I went back to university and retrained. After that I joined a start-up, which turned out to be an excellent idea as it was Worldpay."

Speaking at the same event, Ariane Gorin, senior vice president and general manager of Expedia, explained that risk-taking could be a great way to stand out from the crowd and progress your career.

"When you're unsure what to do look to tackle the things you class as important, but that are not currently working," she said. "If you fail it doesn't matter, as nobody has managed to succeed before you. However, if you succeed you could really advance yourself."

Dell's chief customer officer Karen Quintos shared her experience of stepping up to take control of a situation when a crisis occurred. "When 9/11 happened my boss was stranded in Brazil," she said. "It was crazy because nothing was shipping, and we are a company with very tight supply lines that relies on world logistics. I had to step up and take the lead.

"While it was crazy, that got me a lot of exposure. The leadership team saw what I was able to do in unexpected circumstances and that helped me."