The world cheered as SpaceX successfully landed two Falcon 9 rockets in about a 48-hour period earlier this year. We all love success stories, don’t we? Many people heard about some of the failures SpaceX had before these successes, but no one cheered for them back then!
Yesterday, Elon Musk released a video titled “How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster,” showing a number of crashes, followed by the first success of the Falcon 9. This video, with its lighthearted music and blithe captions, commemorates SpaceX’s success. Furthermore, it acknowledges the failures as an important part of the process, tests of endurance and focus that finally lead to success.
When a company tries something new (i.e. takes a risk), it exposes itself to the possibility of such failure, and our ruthless market does not celebrate failures. However, this risk and reward are inextricably linked. As the adage goes, you can’t succeed if you don’t try – and trying, by extension, introduces the possibility of failure.
But if success is dependent on risks, why don’t more companies take greater risks? Why don’t they try to go after the bigger problems? Why do we not see incisive decisions made by smaller companies, decisions that could potentially lead them to create a whole new market or leapfrog their competitors? The answer lies in the fact that it isn’t abstract “companies” making these decisions – it’s people.
People tend to hide in the shelter provided by known technologies, systems, and processes in order to avoid the painful, embarrassing possibility of failure. This avoidance leads, over the long term, to limited levels of success (driven primarily by automation or optimization) for the company. Therefore, would it not make sense for companies to incentivize individuals – specifically, people in leadership positions – to take bigger risks?
I know change is hard, but executives must look at technology trends closely; if they are to succeed, they need to start working with leading edge technologies. Of course, I’m not suggesting that everyone should turn to SpaceX’s level of risk taking. I understand that that isn’t practical, and initiatives of that scale within an enterprise would require company-wide acceptance and immense budgets. There are, however, “let’s try this” kind of opportunities that can ultimately change the direction of a product, solution, company, or industry. Leaders within the company owe it to those they are supervising to try these out. And there is no shortage of technologies to try new solutions in – from Augmented and Virtual Reality to IoT to AI, the possibilities are endless. Given the investment that projects in such technologies require are usually low, and possible rewards (which, by the way, also include improved personal brand for executives) are huge, it does make sense to try these out.
I have a number of stories where trying new technologies has worked very well for such executives. Feel free to reach out to me if you are interested, and I will be happy to share some more details.
About me: I am the CEO of Audax Labs, a technology company that helps companies use leading edge technologies to generate value. Please feel free to contact me at DeepakN@AudaxLabs.com