· 1 min read · News

Reward innovative failures that have 'learning outcomes'

Published:

Repeated failures in innovation should still be financially rewarded if they contribute to a future hit

Repeated failures in innovation should still be financially rewarded if they contribute to a future hit, according to Mindjet senior VP James Gardner.

Gardner questioned companies' ability to fuel true innovation if employees face dismissal for proposing new ideas that fail to take off the first time. He told HR magazine innovative ideas in business typically "have a 50% to 80% failure rate".

"In most of the companies I have worked with a nine out of 10 failure rate would be a cause for dismissal," he said. "So how does anyone expect innovation to happen in that environment?

"If I fail nine times and my tenth idea generated a hit product, I should be celebrated and bonused for the nine failures. Or if I fail 10 times out of 10 but now we know how to make it work on the eleventh time. Why am I not being bonused on that failure?"

Gardner added that HR has a part to play in this process by creating a culture in which "it is more pleasant to fail".

He added that the most important practical step HR departments need to take is to have a structure in place that can differentiate between failures through incompetence and those "with a learning outcome".