Return on Failure: The Equation

What is failure? When things don’t go according to plan or expectations, ending up with unexpected and/or undesired outcomes (which we can argue could have been avoidable, or not). The key is ‘undesired’ – because if they were desired and not planned or expected, that would still be great! But, as we will see, failure is a terrific way to learn. Maybe we could measure learning as Return on Failure: ROF.

We’ve all heard the phrase “fail often, fail cheap, fail fast.” So, can we do a better job of learning from failure? We’re not built to do this easily, either by learning from others’ failures or our own. There are many ways to learn from failure, so what I’m suggesting is just one way.

One way we could start learning from failure is through a simple 3-step process (bear in mind, simple ≠ easy!):

1. Identification of the Failure(s)
2. Analysis of the Failure(s)
3. Iterative Experimenting & Prototyping based on the learnings from the failures

So, and check my ‘math’, ROF is the sum of Failure Identification + Failure Analysis applied over (and over…) Iterative Experimenting & Prototyping. That’s the framework (for now).

ROF = (FI + FA)/IEP…

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What is failure? When things don’t go according to plan or expectations, ending up with unexpected and/or undesired outcomes (which we can argue could have been avoidable, or not).  The key is ‘undesired‘ – because if they were desired and not planned or expected, that would still be great!  But, as we will see, failure is a terrific way to learn.  Maybe we could measure learning as Return on Failure: ROF.

We’ve all heard the phrase “fail often, fail cheap, fail fast.” So, can we do a better job of learning from failure?  We’re not built to do this easily, either by learning from others’ failures or our own.  There are many ways to learn from failure, so what I’m suggesting is just one way.

One way we could start learning from failure is through a simple 3-step process (bear in mind, simple ≠ easy!):

  1. Identification of the Failure(s)
  2. Analysis of the Failure(s)
  3. Iterative Experimenting & Prototyping based on the learnings from the failures

So, and check my ‘math’, ROF is the sum of Failure Identification + Failure Analysis applied over (and over…) Iterative Experimenting & Prototyping.  That’s the framework (for now).

ROF = (FI + FA)/IEP… Leer más “Return on Failure: The Equation”

Conversational Well-Being: Quality Over Quantity

Matthias Mehl, Shannon Holleran and Shelby Clark of the University of Arizona and Simine Vazire of the Washington University in St. Louis evaluated well-being related to the superficiality of conversation, although they acknowledged from the start how difficult it might be to measure these squishy concepts. As they point out in their paper, “Eavesdropping on Happiness: Well-being Is Related to Having Less Small Talk and More Substantive Conversations,” that appeared in Psychological Science, “Although the macrolevel and long-term implications of happiness have been studied extensively, little is known about the daily social behavior of happy people, primarily because of the difficulty of objectively measuring everyday behavior.”

To address this hole in psychological research and the subjective methodological concerns, the team attached unobtrusive audio recorders to 79 participants that periodically turn on (30 seconds of recorded sound every 12.5 minutes) for four days. Looking at 300 30-second samples for each participant, the researchers first noted whether the person was alone or talking and then categorized each recording according to levels of small talk versus substantive conversation, with conversations of substance being defined as involved conversations consisting of meaningful or personally profound material.

Backing up previous findings, the researchers demonstrate that higher well-being is associated with less time spent alone and more social interactions. The happiest participants were alone 25 percent less of the time and spent about 70 percent more time talking. More importantly, the happiest participants had about one-third as much small talk and twice as many genuine conversations.

But before we start sharing our deepest thoughts with the mailman, the team acknowledges correlation doesn’t prove causation. Perhaps they got it backward, and happy people facilitate authentic conversation instead of real conversation yielding happy people.

So people should probably hesitate before readily wearing their hearts on their sleeves, although the evidence clearly indicates that they definitely shouldn’t just be running their mouths for the sake of conversation either.

The team concludes “our findings suggest that people find their lives more worth living when examined — at least when examined together.”

But what if someone doesn’t have anything personal or profound to share? Then real conversation might be the necessary stimulant to galvanize a previously unexamined life.


Psychologists link happiness with less small talk and more substantive conversation.

By Brad Wittwer

Research repeatedly finds a correlation between happiness and more gregarious individuals, but it hadn’t determined what element of sociability — bubbling over with shallow, inconsequential conversation or exchanging content of personal significance — leads to contentment.

New research suggests that less small talk and more substantive conversation causes increased happiness. (Middle school girls around the globe, take note.) What is just as important as pure, outright outgoingness is the nature and content of social interactions, whether trivial or substantive

Matthias Mehl, Shannon Holleran and Shelby Clark of the University of Arizona and Simine Vazire of the Washington University in St. Louis evaluated well-being related to the superficiality of conversation, although they acknowledged from the start how difficult it might be to measure these squishy concepts. As they point out in their paper, “Eavesdropping on Happiness: Well-being Is Related to Having Less Small Talk and More Substantive Conversations,” that appeared in Psychological Science, “Although the macrolevel and long-term implications of happiness have been studied extensively, little is known about the daily social behavior of happy people, primarily because of the difficulty of objectively measuring everyday behavior.”

To address this hole in psychological research and the subjective methodological concerns, the team attached unobtrusive audio recorders to 79 participants that periodically turn on (30 seconds of recorded sound every 12.5 minutes) for four days. Looking at 300 30-second samples for each participant, the researchers first noted whether the person was alone or talking and then categorized each recording according to levels of small talk versus substantive conversation, with conversations of substance being defined as involved conversations consisting of meaningful or personally profound material. Leer más “Conversational Well-Being: Quality Over Quantity”

Strategic Results

All this planning stuff is just a waste of time if you don’t execute. I’ll be glad to give you a lovely binder with your corporate logo that you can put on your shelf and voila, you have your strategic plan!

Maybe not. What is the real strategic goal? Most likely, increasing the market value of your company – regardless of whether you are private or public. And what makes up market value these days? Well, in the ‘old days’ (20yrs ago?), a company’s value was based on tangibles – stuff it made – things you could touch, taste, smell, hear, see. Not so today – today’s companies’ market valuation includes a sizeable intangible component. Is Google worth $186B because of its servers and software? Apple worth $193B because of its hardware and technology? I posit their market valuation is based on these assets but more on their intangible assets – their culture, people, design, knowledge, experience, social/human network and capital.


All this planning stuff is just a waste of time if you don’t execute. I’ll be glad to give you a lovely binder with your corporate logo that you can put on your shelf and voila, you have your strategic plan!

Maybe not. What is the real strategic goal? Most likely, increasing the market value of your company – regardless of whether you are private or public. And what makes up market value these days? Well, in the ‘old days’ (20yrs ago?), a company’s value was based on tangibles – stuff it made – things you could touch, taste, smell, hear, see. Not so today – today’s companies’ market valuation includes a sizeable intangible component. Is Google worth $186B because of its servers and software? Apple worth $193B because of its hardware and technology? I posit their market valuation is based on these assets but more on their intangible assets – their culture, people, design, knowledge, experience, social/human network and capital. Leer más “Strategic Results”

Paradox of Marketing & Innovation

One of the take-aways from the 2nd Annual Open Innovation (OI) Summit was the criticality of communication (see previous post) for success. Let’s think, who ‘owns’ internal corporate communications? Frequently, internal communications falls in the gap between areas of responsiblities, people are not well trained on how to communicate and it becomes ad hoc. Yet, we hear, and know, that communication is key. Ok, let’s add innovation to the equation.

For many companies creating a culture of innovation means getting some people who are passionate about some ‘thing’ together and letting them go for it. There probably isn’t a reward or recognition system, they may not even be freed up from their ‘day-job’ – they do it because they want to, have a passion to. Even when successful, the group’s work will probably be unknown in most of the business, which impedes replicating that passion/excitement/success throughout the company.


One of the take-aways from the 2nd Annual Open Innovation (OI) Summit was the criticality of communication (see previous post) for success.  Let’s think, who ‘owns’ internal corporate communications?  Frequently, internal communications falls in the gap between areas of responsiblities, people are not well trained on how to communicate and it becomes ad hoc.  Yet, we hear, and know, that communication is key.  Ok, let’s add innovation to the equation.

For many companies creating a culture of innovation means getting some people who are passionate about some ‘thing’ together and letting them go for it.  There probably isn’t a reward or recognition system, they may not even be freed up from their ‘day-job’ – they do it because they want to, have a passion to.  Even when successful, the group’s work will probably be unknown in most of the business, which impedes replicating that passion/excitement/success throughout the company. Leer más “Paradox of Marketing & Innovation”

In Innovation, Culture Trumps! Learnings from P&G

Quick – what company do you think of when you hear “Open Innovation”? Many think of P&G – they were, and are, at the forefront of Open Innovation (OI) and the results are now case studies at business schools around the world and benchmarks for many. I had the chance to talk with Chris Thoen, P&G’s OI guru, at the 2nd Annual OI Summit. It seems that everyone has interviewed him and if you google him, you’ll find a lot of great learnings on how P&G has grown their OI initiatives and made it a part of their culture. Of course I wanted to ask him something original, so, being interesting in how we learn, and apply, from failure, I asked Chris what he thought was one of their key failures and what they learned from it. The answer surprised me.


Quick – what company do you think of when you hear “Open Innovation“? Many think of P&G – they were, and are, at the forefront of Open Innovation (OI) and the results are now case studies at business schools around the world and benchmarks for many.  I had the chance to talk with Chris Thoen, P&G’s OI guru, at the 2nd Annual OI Summit.  It seems that everyone has interviewed him and if you google him, you’ll find a lot of great learnings on how P&G has grown their OI initiatives and made it a part of their culture.  Of course I wanted to ask him something original, so, being interesting in how we learn, and apply, from failure, I asked Chris what he thought was one of their key failures and what they learned from it. The answer surprised me. Leer más “In Innovation, Culture Trumps! Learnings from P&G”