If you haven’t been part of a major failure in your career then you’re not trying hard enough.
As a Scoutmaster I’ve seen adults and children learn faster and more efficiently from their mistakes than from their successes. “Well I won’t do it that way again,” holds a lot more weight than “Aren’t I clever.”
Leading a risky, innovative project automatically ensures that things will go wrong. So the relevant question is how to lead through difficulties to ensure innovation continues.
Whining does not work — “We didn’t have enough resources. It was out of my control….”
Pointing does not work — “The division didn’t step up. The research was wrong….”
Excuses don’t work. If the point of failure comes as a complete surprise to your management then you have already missed a key element of leading a risky project — Managing Expectations.
As chief cheerleader your focus has to be on convincing an organization that the goal is achievable. At the same time you must identify and highlight the areas where organizationally a lot of learning must go on and flag elements that are so critical they could sink the program. This also allows you to break success up into more manageable chunks.
“We learned how to do this.”
“We’ve passed that hurdle”
“We’ve found a solution”
Every success builds momentum to help you get past the next hurdle. A list of meaningful successes creates capital you can tap.
Every innovative project provides learning and output that is useful even if the ultimate goal of the project is not achieved. By identifying those elements you help create a platform for innovation and highlight your value to the organization.