x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Learn from the superstars - failure breeds success

If you were once a big Eminem fan like I was when a teenager, then you may remember the line rapped by him in his song Lose Yourself: "Success is my only option, failure's not." Many managers adopt the same approach with their staff, but this is not always the proper approach, writes Manar Al Hinai.

Eminem performs in Indio, California, in April.Chris Pizzello / AP Photo
Eminem performs in Indio, California, in April.Chris Pizzello / AP Photo

If you were once a big Eminem fan like I was when a teenager, then you may remember the line rapped by him in his song Lose Yourself: "Success is my only option, failure's not."

Many managers adopt the same approach with their staff.

In most cases it is appropriate. After all, one of the main goals of businesses is to ensure a winning formula - that they beat the competition and, of course, keep the profit margins pointing north.

As a perfectionist, I felt Eminem's lyrics spoke to me. Growing up, failure was not an option.

In fact, if I did not succeed at a certain task, I would become depressed. The matter would haunt my mind for days until I resolved the situation.

However, there are times when failure is necessary to ensure both lessons are learnt and for self-improvement. It is vital managers recognise the importance of this.

Failure is an important aspect of organisational innovation - it is a vital ingredient. At its core, innovation is based on scientific method and that entails developing a hypothesis, testing it and finding out if it is valid or not.

Doing so successfully may require repeated failures, each time getting you one step closer to a satisfactory result, whether at product developing or at the marketing stage.

The key to absorbing failure with innovation is to fail quickly and repeatedly - conducting numerous tests while keeping risks to a minimum.

If you had an idea for selling a certain product not available online, then repeatedly testing the product by asking potential customers if they would buy it, even before going into the production stage, is a good idea.

If they did not display any interest, then you may have "failed" with that particular sample but you would have saved time, energy and money. Next step, try again with another idea. This is important for small-business owners to keep in mind.

However, incorporating this kind of failure at an organisational level requires managers to provide some sort of safety net so employees' mistakes do not turn into disasters.

If a chief executive wants an employee to produce monthly marketing material, he or she should delegate the task to that person and give him or her access to a consultant or assign someone to be their shadow to teach them how to go about the task until they have mastered it.

Failure is also an essential component in performance development.

One of the best ways for managers to develop their employees' skills is to push them beyond their comfort zone, to practise new skills and explore other aspects of their talent.

With few exceptions, mastering new skills means putting up with some degree of failure because it takes a lot of practise and effort to learn and succeed - whatever the field, be it management or art.

I am lucky to be working alongside a manager who pushes me beyond my comfort zone to develop professionally.

Over the past couple of years, I have failed at different tasks assigned to me and as a perfectionist I was stressed because that was unacceptable to me. With time, I realised failing at a learning or a developing stage is inevitable because failure is an important ingredient of success.

What motivated me even more was reading Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers: The Story of Success. In it, Gladwell points out all successful people, from The Beatles to software billionaires, invested 10,000 or more working hours, which included repeated failure for some of them, before they became successful.

Acknowledging their failure and using it as a stepping stone to become closer to their goals is what makes such superstars different to normal people. All it took was a change of mindset and fierce determination.

Although it is easy to rap and say failure is not an option, the reality is sometimes failure is the best option.

Effective business leaders are those who turn performance failures into a means of developing their staff and, in the long run, create a stronger organisation.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati fashion designer and writer. Follow her on Twitter: @manar_alhinai