This stopped me in my tracks. I just saw a video of Randy Komisar. Randy is a new kind of business leader that’s being labeled “Virtual CEO.” He’s worked at Apple, LucasArts Entertainment, Crystal Dynamics, Claris Corporation and GO Corporation. He also teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford and is the author of a best-selling book The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living.
Komisar talks about how Silicon Valley is not defined by its success but by how it deals with failure. Whenever you’re working in innovation, experimentation, taking risks to do what hasn’t been done before, there has to be a tolerance and understanding of failure.
Komisar says if you really want to create something new you have to cultivate a “culture of constructive failure,” which he defines as “the ability to tolerate failure, proceed with your career, do it again, and take your experience and cash in on it as an asset.” In most business, when there is a significant failure, the business stops, but in Silicon Valley and for savvy entrepreneurs, failure doesn’t stop them. Komisar’s own experience is that you learn more by failing than by working in a successful business. He views past failures as an opportunity to develop character, solidify esprit de corps in a team, and create tools to deal with future business challenges.
I think this is worth highlighting right now because in our current milieu of so much transition and no one really knowing how we’re going to lift ourselves into a stable and growing US and world economy, we have to keep in our vision the importance of taking risks to innovate in our own business. We have to take the risk to grow even in this insecurity because this is what will create a different momentum forward. But to do that, we also have to be smart – and this means understanding that failure is part of the process, and the most important thing we can do is very consciously take the lessons learned to help us move further forward. The kinds of risks many of us have been willing to take in the past may not look as exciting or potentially worthwhile as they did 15 or 20 years ago. But if some of us small business owners and entrepreneurs aren’t willing to step out and take risks –appropriate to this time of course – we’re not contributing to regaining the health of our economy. The only thing that I keep seeing is that, in light of the fact that no one has the answers, creating the change that I want to see is really up to me – and the way I approach my own business today matters in a much bigger picture than just my own little life.