One of the most common reasons that people aren’t innovative or creative is that they fear failure. Kim Scott, former Google Executive and author of the book ‘Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss without Losing Your Humanity’, recently shared her tip on how we can make it safe for people to try new ideas in order to promote creativity.
Scott advocates taking a stuffed monkey to weekly staff meetings and offering it as a prize to the person who has had the biggest ‘screw up’ of the week. Not only do they get to keep the stuffed monkey for the week but they also get instant forgiveness for whatever they screwed up plus they get to teach everyone else how not to make the same mistake. Sounds scary but… Scott claims that in a team of over a hundred people she usually gets around ten to fifteen stories from people competing for the monkey. That’s ten to fifteen opportunities to learn from others within the team plus it also removes the fear factor. Giving teams space to fail encourages them to explore more creative approaches and challenge traditional ways of doing things.
Reading Scott’s tip reminded me of a wonderful quote from David Bowie about creativity.
‘If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting’.
By challenging our perception of ‘mistakes’ we allow people to feel safe to step out of their depth, try new concepts and ideas, and in turn foster and nurture a culture of innovation and creativity.