Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chutes and Ladders – A Primer for Entrepreneurism?

Credit: Rodney Miller, Wood Innovations
I have been a student of Dan Sullivan and his Strategic Coach program for more than seven years now. I always look forward to my quarterly sessions because I always get at least one fabulous “Ah Ha” moment every time my group meets.

At my last class my coach was setting up the days agenda and related the story of playing with Chutes and Ladders with his grandson. He was reflecting on the happiness he got from watching his grandson gain so much joy from playing the game. The teachable moment for him, was the way his grandson reacted to landing on a chute that took him almost all the way back down to the start of the board.

It was a lesson on looking at the event as an opportunity versus failure. When he inquired as to why that act made him so excited, his grandson replied, “Because then I am only four places away from the ladder that will take me almost all the way to the top!”

Wow! Isn’t that a great perspective? Where in our childhood experiences do we lose that viewpoint? As a manufacturer, I see the fear of failure stifle our innovation on a regular basis. Our VP of Engineering, Ali Jabbari has a piece of paper taped up in his office window stating:

Try again
Fail again
Fail better!
Fail faster

The problem is getting the team to truly believe that it is OK to fail, and that it's actually an important part of the innovation process. Solving this challenge takes more than just posting this quote for all to see.

One thing I think all entrepreneurs have in common is that they don’t get discouraged by slipping down that chute. Like my coaches’ grandson they don’t perceive it as failure. They see it as a teachable moment and that they have the opportunity of being only four spaces away from success. They also don’t see failure as a zero sum game. Like in the game of Chutes and Ladders, even if you go down a chute, you are never taken back to the start of the game; even with failure you have still made progress.

What “chute” has actually gotten you closer to your “ladder” of success? I’d love to hear your stories. I truly believe the more we see these chutes as strategic byproducts that end up getting us to our ultimate success, we will reach company growth and innovation much faster.

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