Celebrating the Near Win (Video)

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. –Thomas Edison

A few important questions to consider: Does your culture foster innovation and celebrate not just the wins, but also the bravery it takes to present bold new ideas – ideas that often run a higher risk of failure? Do you celebrate risk-takers, regardless of the outcome? Are near-wins within your company “blame-worthy” or “praise-worthy?” These questions, and the ramifications of their answers, are of critical importance within an always on, real-time communications landscape.

I recently hosted a meeting that focused on the many facets of leadership. As part of that discussion, I was joined by Sarah Lewis, author of The Los Angeles Times bestseller: The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery. Sarah, a celebrated art historian, curator and recently appointed assistant professor at Harvard University, shared insights on the pursuit of mastery – and the notion that only through embracing our failed attempts, will we discover the key to achieving breakthrough creative. I sat down with Sarah after our meeting where she provided a snapshot of her point of view on innovation and creativity.

Here are a few of the moments from our discussion that resonated:

1. The Big Idea is not an epiphany; it’s a process (click to tweet).
So many of the achievements we celebrate are perceived as near-wins in the maker’s eyes when, the truth is, creative triumph is only a result of an ever-onward process of “almost” successes.

2. I haven’t failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Sarah delivered a poignant look into the composition of an ideal workplace environment. For example, the byproduct of having a culture with an increased tolerance and plasticity when it comes to the idea of embracing failure will inexorably develop a pipeline filled with future successes. When we praise the ideas that don’t take off with the same fervor that we celebrate the ones that do, we foster a culture that makes its people comfortable with what it takes to get to that 10,001 idea.

3. The modern PR firm is not just a business; it’s a laboratory.
Innovative breakthroughs only come by disrupting a natural pattern – by creating the space needed to encourage bravery and bold decision-making. A laboratory calls for relentless experimentation through trail and error, and perceived failures should only be viewed as the rocket fuel powering your next, inevitable, big idea.

Sarah’s message is one that I believe resonates with all creative and communications professionals. So much so, that we’ve invited her to deliver a keynote presentation at this year’s Holmes Global PR Summit. Please join us at the event to hear from Sarah live, and ask her any additional questions you may have.

Rob Flaherty is Chairman of Ketchum, the global communications consultancy with 130 offices and affiliates worldwide. He is on the board of the Arthur W. Page Society, the Institute for Public Relations and the advisory board of Room to Read, which focuses on literacy and girls education in developing nations. Follow Rob on Twitter at @flahertyrob.