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Should Failure Be Rewarded To Spur Innovation?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the you-ruined-all-the-backups-here-is-20-bucks dept.

Businesses 146

Lucas123 writes "Paper products maker Kimberly-Clark drove the morale of its IT infrastructure group into the ground after massive firings and outsourcing. When they hired a new VP of Infrastructure four years later to turn things around, he implemented a program to spur innovation. The VP took a venture capitalist approach where any employee could submit an idea and if accepted, make a pitch in 30 minutes or less. If the idea had merit, it received first, then second rounds of funding. If not, the employee's idea still got lauded on the company's internal Sharepoint site. As he puts it, 'Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. It's about what we learn from the failure. Not the failure itself. We celebrate that learning.'"

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The Beatings Will Continue... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39605841)

Until Morale Improves.

Re:The Beatings Will Continue... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606187)

bangla newspaper [bangla-news-paper.com]

Risk some capital (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606607)

Upper management tends to consider itself enlightened, whereas tech are just low-level functionaries who could not possibly grasp the basics of budgeting and return on investment. They never trust, even their most senior and proven people, to come up with ideas which would benefit the company in the long run. If management can't see the benefit themselves, then there is no benefit and money should not be spent.

However, technicians have an important perspective on the company's needs which can only come from having your head down in the trenches. They see opportunities for gain that upper management cannot see, and will never see, despite their importance and reality. Furthermore, some of their technical agendas can't directly translate to numbers despite their real value.

Therefore, truly enlightened upper management will accept a measure of risk, devoting some development bandwidth to the ideas being put forth by their technicians, even though management doesn't quite understand the value. Its true that some of that money might get wasted, but the gains will more than offset the costs.

Unfortunately, such an attitude requires a level of respect and humility not generally found in corporate executives.

Re:Risk some capital (1)

trparky (846769) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607143)

Obviously this isn't happening in AT&T land. Randall Stephenson is a real idiot!

All he cares about is profit, profit, and more profit and to hell with the health of the company long-term, their customers, and their employees. Just as long as we made our money today, who cares about "tomorrow."

Re:The Beatings Will Continue... (2)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607085)

Meanwhile in the banks....

The Bonuses Will Continue Until Morals Improve.

Is this a joke? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39605845)

If not, the employee's idea still got lauded on the company's internal Sharepoint site. As he puts it, 'Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. It's about what we learn from the failure. Not the failure itself. We celebrate that learning.

Really? Seriously?

I'm supposed to be motivated by a mention on a sharepoint site?

Re:Is this a joke? (4, Insightful)

discord5 (798235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39605881)

I'm supposed to be motivated by a mention on a sharepoint site?

Hey, it takes hard work to get into the Hall Of Shame page on the company sharepoint. Not only do you need to shoot yourself in the foot, but you need to do so in public for everyone to see.

That moment you go for a cup of coffee and all the people around the watercooler stop talking, that's the moment you know they've seen the Hall Of Shame page. You should bask in the glory of your achievement at that moment.

Re:Is this a joke? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606505)

Youre right but dont forget CEOs an executives regularly get massive bonuses for public failure.

Re:Is this a joke? (1)

HeLLFiRe1151 (743468) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606567)

Do as I say, not as I do.

Re:Is this a joke? (1)

yanom (2512780) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606893)

The fact that this is modded Insightful makes it that much better.

Re:Is this a joke? (3, Informative)

discord5 (798235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607305)

The fact that this is modded Insightful makes it that much better.

I guess it's time for me to fetch that cup of coffee and test my theory. ;)

In all honesty, I think it's okay to fail every now and then when testing and experimenting with things. We learn mostly by doing, and the most valuable experiences are always the ones where we fail and learned something in the process. There are scenarios where failure is not an option, and at those times it's for the best to have the experience of knowing what won't work. The thing is, it's part of the "creative/innovative process", and I don't believe your employer should pay special attention to it other than giving you the opportunity to do so every now and then where it doesn't really impact anything critical.

The whole sharepoint thing seems like one of those management decisions in a company where "innovation" has become a buzzword. A few months ago I attended a meeting where management had suggested that we should make room for innovative projects. They decided that people were free to come up with ideas and suggest them to management, providing there would be an acceptable planning and feasibility study, etc etc. Sounds like common sense right?

The whole thing got bogged down in red tape of course. The few ideas that bubbled up in "creativity workshops" have become so twisted and bloated in scope that they would require several manyears to achieve, which is impossible on the shoestring budget they set aside for it. I'm not lamenting the whole budget thing, nor the fact that management kind of wants to track the process itself, it's just the way they're doing it.

They've got the sharepoint thing, and they've added tons of overhead, including documenting and reporting your progress in a fashion that would make bureaucrats roll their eyes (similar to ECSS standards for those familiar, which is way overkill for the whole thing anyway). For every hour you're spending on trying something you're faced with at least an hour of paperwork. So most people who had this small interesting idea, are now saddled with a full blown project that exceeds the scope of "scratching an itch" and working from there, up to a point where it's interfering with actually getting stuff done.

So the end result will most likely be (fairly costly) failure. It's more than okay to shoot yourself in the foot sometimes when trying out something in an environment where you can't do any harm. But people are going to be far less inclined to pull the trigger if everyone sees it giving opportunity for people to use it against you with an extremely well documented failure. I hope that explains why my previous post was rather cynical.

I personally tend to experiment a lot in the early stages of projects where we are considering various solutions to a problem. And I do so most of the times by breaking the stuff I've built several times, fixing it and in the end picking the solution I feel most confident with. While I'm experimenting I just take short notes, instead of documenting everything. Fully document the solution you pick and the reasons why you feel it's the best solution, not the minute details of the process of experimenting itself. So far that approach has worked for me and I don't think adding more oversight or overhead to that initial process contributes anything useful.

Re:Is this a joke? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39605913)

Who determines if a project or a direction is worthy of being accepted? The same people that laid off and outsourced everyone, this single VP? How does he stay on top of all of the technologies to know if they are good and sound decisions?

Where I work, we are about 80% virtual and on a path to be 95%+ virtual with our servers in the next year (about 800 servers spread across 10 locations). We are also about 15% virtual with the desktops and on a path to become at least 50% in the next year (2000 desktops). The backup system our CIO and his buddy the network architect approved and purchased is not "virtual" aware, it knows nothing of virtual servers, machines, vcb and does not interface directly any of our SANs at the storage level, legal holds, nothing. It is a complete disaster. I'm sure on paper and bottom line price, it looked really good though. Strange how someone so high up can make decisions with NO input from those below.

Re:Is this a joke? (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39605985)

Who determines if a project or a direction is worthy of being accepted? The same people that laid off and outsourced everyone, this single VP?

Even in the summary, it mentions this VP was hired after the firings and outsourcing to turn things back around. This VP's job is to deal with the smoking rubble which is the current IT employee morale.

Re:Is this a joke? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606555)

How does he stay on top of all of the technologies to know if they are good and sound decisions?

He pays people to stay on top of the technologies and make good and to make good and sound proposals.

1. The employee submits the idea - they need to include enough background and explanation for him to judge it.

2. The employee gives a preentation on the idea - they need to include enough background and explanation for him to judge it. Probably answer questions too.

3. If it still sounds good then they get funding to start their project, then further funding depends on actual results.

Welcome to American business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39605991)

You know, the one where you can work overtime on a weekend as a favor to your boss and he says he'll pay you for the work because he needs this done now. Then it turns out your "pay" was he put you in for an award with a tiny cash prize that amounts to working for 1/2 pay on the weekend.(I'm still pissed about that one even after 10 years but at least it taught me to avoid working weekends since your boss won't really appreciate it anyway.)

Re:Welcome to American business (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606059)

(I'm still pissed about that one even after 10 years but at least it taught me to avoid working weekends since your boss won't really appreciate it anyway.)

Since THAT boss won't appreciate it... Some do. Some do a lot. They usually also have very good teams.

Re:Welcome to American business (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607203)

I had a boss that gave us double comp time for working weekends when requested to. And brought in a masseuse. No decent bonuses, but extra time off is nice.

Re:Is this a joke? (2)

Nos9 (442559) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606001)

You might be surprised at how being mocked by your peers is a motivational factor.

I see the sharing in either case to be a tricky way of publicly shaming really stupid ideas, and a good way to show off those decent ideas.

Re:Is this a joke? (4, Insightful)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606015)

I'm supposed to be motivated by a mention on a sharepoint site?

Actually, yeah. Think of it this way: by sharing the idea publicly, there's opportunity to improve it. Just because it's not being developed now does not mean that there's no chance of it being developed tomorrow.

Re:Is this a joke? (4, Insightful)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606619)

No, you are supposed to feel confident that the higher-ups like someone who takes a risk and pitches an idea, even if it doesn't pan out. That they'd rather someone take the risk and pitch their idea, rather than sit on it, thinking they would get laughed out of there and lose the respect of their bosses. The main goal is to remove the self-doubt.

Re:Is this a joke? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607699)

Until they look at the history on this 'Sharepoint' and realize, wow, this one guy has a LOT of bad ideas.

No joke, motivation (2)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607027)

I'm supposed to be motivated by a mention on a sharepoint site?

No, you are supposed to be motivated to make sure that your project gets funding instead of being just stuck on a sharepoint site. This is actually a very smart thing to do - it gives credit to the submitter for at least trying and puts the idea out there to see if others can improve on it. At the same time the "reward" (such as it is) is far less than a successful idea so it does not eliminate the motivation for success. Seems like a very clever system...I'm sure whoever came up with the idea for it got more than a mention on a sharepoint site!

Would you reward Sony's (0)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39605847)

Playstation network engineers, or fire them?

Re:Would you reward Sony's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39605907)

Same question can be asked about more or less everyone involved in Android.

Re:Would you reward Sony's (1)

Ksevio (865461) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607345)

They weren't innovating anything - they just had to run a secure network (something that's established and has been done).

This is about coming up with new ideas, but giving people credit for the new idea even if it doesn't work out.

Absolutly (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39605855)

Your Mom should be awarded for showing me her ballsack.

Better phrasing (5, Insightful)

mseeger (40923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39605867)

What they don't do is "rewarding failure". They hand out incentives for trying. Subtle differences between those two....

Re:Better phrasing (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39605953)

Absolutely spot on. Rewarding failure doesn't encourage innovation. Not punishing failure does to some extent. Acknowledging taking initiative does so even more.

Re:Better phrasing (5, Interesting)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39605957)

> They hand out incentives for trying. Subtle differences ...

Correct. Good point.

If you want to find a miserable employee, just look for the guy or gal who's working for a moron who thinks everything can be accomplished with a bullwhip. Anyone who's a decent manager knows that it's stick ... AND carrot. And it has to be sincere, too. I appreciate my assistants and try to tell them that on a regular basis. And yeah (answering someone else's post here), they DO appreciate mentions and little letters from the company president. If it's a larger company, a little recognition goes a long way.

I encourage my guys to be creative. And here's the most important thing: I have a rock-solid rule that I beat into their heads. "If you screw up, if you break something or make a mistake, as long as it's an honest mistake, come admit it and we'll fix it." Now, if you're horsing around or slacking off an break something, I'm gonna hammer you. But if it's an honest screw-up, we'll fix it and move on.

My brother used to do food industry, and he told me the best story I've ever heard about that: fast food joint. Busy, busy, employees scrambling behind the counter. An employee drops a couple of burgers and the manager screams at her. A few minutes later, she drops something else, he threatens to fire her.

So ... sure enough, it's crazy, everyone is scrambling ... she drops something else. Some fries go on the floor. She looks around in a panic, notes that the manager isn't watching .. . .. . and quickly picks the fries off the floor AND PUTS THEM BACK IN THE SERVING BIN.

I've never forgotten that story. Being the PHP From Doom every time an employee makes a mistake simply means that they'll start covering them up ... and so you've now got a computer running with an obvious bug, or a microwave link with a broken connector that's taped back together (true stories both). And you don't even know it!

Carrot AND stick. And it has to be sincere, too. Not something that you force yourself to learn.

Re:Better phrasing (2)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606075)

A good reason not to eat at places with abusive management. I have walked out of places because f the way they treat their employees.

Re:Better phrasing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606287)

Me too... although I verbally abused that Manager before I left too :)

Scenario: Went to get fast good, we order, manager starts screaming at a young (maybe 16-18) employee (can't remember the reason now but it was something trivial and stupid).
Response: Myself, and three of my friends (who just finished Boot Camp a few weeks before), decided to verbally abuse this shithead; I'm pretty sure we were good and intimidating and he really looked like he was ready to shit himself as we walked out...

Re:Better phrasing (2)

Man Eating Duck (534479) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606585)

A good reason not to eat at places with abusive management. I have walked out of places because f the way they treat their employees.

That's why management at those places are instructed never to chew out employees in front of customers. I guess the instructions won't stick with the more abusive ones, if you care enough you can probably notify someone higher up the chain about the abuse.

Re:Better phrasing (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606291)

Morale is critical for security as well. Yes, a company can browbeat employees about security, but if they don't give a flying fsck because they know they are the low bidders, only the bare minimum gets done.

Contrast that to a company that actually does make an attempt to look out for its employees and contractors. People would tend to be more alert and proactive in finding security issues, or actually pay attention to the security policy because they know it affects them.

Re:Better phrasing (2)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606437)

"Carrot AND stick."

Depends on the context, see Dan Pink on motivation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc [youtube.com]

Or Alfie Kohn's "Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes":
http://www.alfiekohn.org/books/pbr.htm [alfiekohn.org]

Re:Better phrasing (0)

cdp0 (1979036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606579)

I appreciate my assistants and try to tell them that on a regular basis. And yeah (answering someone else's post here), they DO appreciate mentions and little letters from the company president. If it's a larger company, a little recognition goes a long way.

I'm not sure if and how it applies to your field of work and more specifically to (your) assistants, but I will generalize and talk about workers: if they are productive it means the company probably makes more money. If the company makes more money and you give them just letters and words, they will actually be demoralized. Sure, few of them will ever let you know, because they are afraid of criticizing the employer; some of them will even fake being happy. But that doesn't make them happy bees.
Letters and words don't feed you (or maybe paper does?), don't pay your bills and so on. If you want to show your appreciation reward them in a way that actually matters to them.

Otherwise, I appreciate the way you are dealing with people, encouraging them to come forward when they make mistake (after all everybody makes mistakes sooner or later) and encouraging them to be creative.

Re:Better phrasing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606797)

I encourage my guys to be creative. And here's the most important thing: I have a rock-solid rule that I beat into their heads. "If you screw up, if you break something or make a mistake, as long as it's an honest mistake, come admit it and we'll fix it." Now, if you're horsing around or slacking off an break something, I'm gonna hammer you. But if it's an honest screw-up, we'll fix it and move on.

If your employees are avoiding horsing around and slacking off only because otherwise you might discover and "hammer them", then you are in an extremely poor situation, and by your own argument your employees will only be motivated to hide those activities. Your job is to be a manager, and should you choose to accept that responsibility, that means that it is your lot in life to transform your employees into people who behave in useful ways at work through their own motivation. Your job is to make yourself superfluous - if things wouldn't work well enough on their own if you went to the hospital for a month, then you are doing a poor job.

Do you yourself mainly do useful work because otherwise your boss might "hammer you"? Does your own boss walk around making sure that you aren't horsing around? The context that you have been put into makes you behave in a useful way without careful oversight. It is your job to create that context for your employees and to make them ready to work in that context.

The #1 thing to do with a mistake is to show the employee the consequences or potential consequences of the mistake - REAL reasons to avoid ever doing that again, and then to focus on making sure it doesn't happen again (if that is even possible). If there are no consequences or potential consequences, it isn't worth talking about anyway. Not making you or anyone else mad is, on it's own, not a good reason to do anything at all. It is "We lost 10k in revenue because of this mistake you made. That makes me look bad in front of my own boss and if we continue to make mistakes like that around here, we won't make enough money to keep everyone here employed. How did this happen, and how can we make sure that it doesn't happen again?" versus "You are an idiot and if you make any mistakes again, I'll call you an idiot a second time! I might fire you too!" Which of those two would make you more committed to working at that company and perform well there?

Re:Better phrasing (1)

walkerp1 (523460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606085)

What they don't do is "rewarding failure". They hand out incentives for trying. Subtle differences between those two....

Cause and Effect, my love.

Re:Better phrasing (1)

slasho81 (455509) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606191)

If you reward trying, you'd get people feeling entitled and expecting to be rewarded for effort and not for actual results. Why is this bad? Just look at the US education system.

What needs to happen is:

  • Trying should be encouraged, but not incentivized.
  • Success should be celebrated.
  • Failure should not be punished, unless it was caused by negligence or malice.

Re:Better phrasing (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606199)

Indeed. I don't hear the statement saying that every employee is a uniquely valued snowflake. One can read a bit of the opposite in the tone, really, if the idea presented turns out to be stupidly thought out, but it expresses an open and non-punitive philosophy on the part of the company to keep an open ear to ideas that seems very reasoned.

Re:Better phrasing (3, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606277)

This is the point that I wanted to make. They're not offering a greater reward for failure than what they're offering for success. They're not rewarding failure, they're rewarding employees who make worthwhile attempts, even I father fail. There's a big difference.

Failure is generally a precursor to success. You try, you fail, and you try again. Eventually you succeed. Unfortunately, our culture has such a stigma around failure that we don't understand this. We think it's appropriate to punish a person for failing because we think that discouraging failure is the same as encouraging success. It's not.

Growing up, I had teachers and family members trying to discourage failure, and I'm sure they meant well. The actual result is that I spent years of my life afraid to try at anything unless I was sure I'd succeed. I missed out on a lot, and the damage is irreparable.

We should be encouraging people to be interested and curious, to be willing to take a shot even if they don't quite know what they're doing. There are many consequences that *should* dissuade you from trying something, but embarrassment is not one of them.

Re:Better phrasing (2)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606477)

Yes, but it goes even farther. Kimberly Clark (and the remains of Scott Paper which it bought in the 90's) had gone through massive cost cutting and outsourcing, tens of thousands of jobs were cut in the name of reducing cost. When a company gets chainsawn like that the survivors (or in this case the replacements) won't do anything that might draw the attention of the next round of slash and burn management. Keep quiet. Hit your numbers this quarter. Period.

Re:Better phrasing (1)

Ice Tiger (10883) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607649)

Too right, it's the difference between playing to win and playing not to loose.

they didn't fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39607705)

The rejected ideas did not fail, they were not given the chance to determine if they would work. Management opinions are hardly a reliable determinate of what new ideas would be successful in the market.

Alan Kay (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39605871)

Alan Kay is always a good source of quotes (including, paraphrase 'I said that 30 years ago! Why does no one ever listen to me?'), but one in particular is relevant here:

If you're not failing 90% of the time, then you're probably not working on sufficiently challenging problems

I think I'd find failing 90% of the time completely demoralising, but it's certainly true that if you never fail then you're probably not exploring really interesting possibilities.

Re:Alan Kay (1)

maple_shaft (1046302) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606013)

I think I'd find failing 90% of the time completely demoralising, but it's certainly true that if you never fail then you're probably not exploring really interesting possibilities.

The truly demoralising thing is working for truly moronic and disgustingly selfish pigs time and time again, company after company. The only "interesting possibility" for me is to just continue getting a paycheck and provide for my family which I love coming home to every night. This is why I choose a mediocre job precisely because I don't want to put myself in a situation where failure is a possibility.

Capitalism doesn't reward failure, despite what executives want you to think. When you fail the hungry pack of wolves will tear you apart.

Re:Alan Kay (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606143)

The problem is you can't predict ahead of time what will be successful. So if you never try you will stagnate and die. If you try and have some successes and some failures as long as you can identify and cut the failures before too much resources are spent you will come out ahead. Also often a project may fail but sets you up for future success.

Re:Alan Kay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606599)

You will stagnate, but you won't die as fast as those who fail and fail again. You'll have a steady boring job.

I've seen the ones whose businesses have failed. And too often it's not really their fault - yes they could have done some things better, but so what? I've seen the success stories and they've made mistakes too.

You mainly hear from those who succeed, they might even write books about how they did it. But when one success story says, "just keep trying", another says "know when to cut your losses", one says "focus on doing one thing well" and yet another says "start 7 things and pick the one that works", seems to me more than half the secret to success is luck.

Of course if you don't bet big you won't win big.

Re:Alan Kay (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607165)

I see what you are saying and you are right. I use this example when someone says they have a hot broker.

Imagine a room with 64 people. You flip a coin and everyone has to call it and losers sit down.. After 1 flip you expect 32 winners. 2 flips 16, ect until after 6 flips you have one person that called all 6 correct. Do you think they are really good or just lucky?

Re:Alan Kay (3, Interesting)

jpate (1356395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606105)

I think I'd find failing 90% of the time completely demoralising, but it's certainly true that if you never fail then you're probably not exploring really interesting possibilities.

relevant [biologists.org] .

Hans Moravec, too (2)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606475)

In my time hanging out in Hans Moravec's mobile robotics lab at CMU in the mid 1980s, Hans said much the same thing. He suggested that good research had to involve a lot of failures, and that is why so many of the straight A students you might think would be best at it are actually temperamentally unsuited for a career in research. He suggested people who have some experience dealing with many early failures early in life were more likely to have the persistence needed for a career in research.

Of course, research these days is so problematical for other reasons too, sadly, so many people won;t even get a chance to step up to the plate in an academic sense:
http://www.its.caltech.edu/~dg/crunch_art.html [caltech.edu]

So I guess they need to persist in other ways.

Re:Alan Kay (1)

digsbo (1292334) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607171)

Wow. I've been asking myself why I'm bothering trying classical piano at 36 - it's a constant, continous source of frustration, with tiny rewards every few months when I get a short piece semi-playable. It fits that pattern perfectly. Funny thing - if I didn't have the experience of knowing this was how it would be from the time 20 years ago when I studied classical clarinet, I'd give up every time a particular passage seemed completely impossible. Amazing what a person of average talent can do when persevering.

Real rewards (5, Interesting)

pmontra (738736) | more than 2 years ago | (#39605873)

I wonder if the employee which proposed the idea is appointed to implement it or if s/he gets a share of the money the company makes or saves.

Re:Real rewards (2)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606295)

It's pretty common here in Germany for company to pay out cash rewards to employees who suggest an improvement.

A couple decades of experience show that most stuff under such a system is small day-to-day operation stuff. Real innovations simply don't work well as a written-up proposal. You need a budget up front (even if it's small, or just a time budget), you need some experimentation and iterative refinement.

But those small improvements also add up and most companies are very happy to have such a system in place. It saves them having dedicated people running around the shop looking for things to improve upon as the employees do that, and usually better.

Failure is ALREADY rewarding (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39605885)

Failure is its own reward IF YOU LEARN SOMETHING

If you don't, YOU DON'T DESERVE A REWARD

Sorry for massive caps, but I didn't feel bold or em are emphatic enough.

Re:Failure is ALREADY rewarding (2)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607199)

Unless you don't think of it as something to learn from, which is all too common.

Innovators always try to understand why something did not work.

failure as a teaching method (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39605911)

I teach a robotics class for 9th-12th graders using NXT Mindstorm. I have a number of challenges which are difficult to finish by design. When I grade, I tell them they are supposed to fail, and the grade is not for failing to achieve the task, but how they overcome that failure, and (as important) how they formulated a new solution as a team. I look for progress in working towards a goal. Since we have a time constraint on each challenge, often half the teams will not reach the goal.

But along the way, I see some very interesting solutions and innovative ideas. Once I take away the risk of failing for not achieving goal "A", the students become much more daring (or as daring as you can be with Mindstorm robots) in trying out new ideas to the problem. This is my second year doing this class, and I have two teams going to the state robotics competition.

Re:failure as a teaching method (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39607093)

This is an amazing teaching methodology. I was privileged to have some teachers and professors who were like this, and their classes are by far the ones that taught me the most.

Learning requires "failure" (4, Interesting)

Raxxon (6291) | more than 2 years ago | (#39605971)

Share the "failure". Let others take a look at it. Let someone else take a stab at it.

The "Reward" in this case sounds like they're recognizing employees who are making an effort to change things. They are providing information about the project attempt and letting others know what's going on instead of sweeping it under the rug and ignoring that it ever happened.

Done PROPERLY I can see this being a major positive, especially for morale. "Hey, Bob went to pitch his idea today, but it didn't pan out. I think I see what killed it and I might have a solution for that..." Granted I also expect massive backstabbing if this is implemented wrong. Instead of collaboration it can very quickly devolve into theft and sabotage.

no, it doesn't (1)

Lazy Jones (8403) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606123)

Learning is a desirable consequence of failure, but failure isn't a prerequisite for learning. You can learn during your attempt and not fail, or you can give up early and not learn. It's up to you, it only depends on your attitude and your persistence.

Just my €0.02.

Re:Learning requires "failure" (1)

maple_shaft (1046302) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606271)

Granted I also expect massive backstabbing if this is implemented wrong. Instead of collaboration it can very quickly devolve into theft and sabotage.

The only reason to expect something like that is if the company actually gave a significant financial incentive to employees for their innovation, and if there is one thing I learned about the IT industry in America, it is that the actual IT workers get little more than a pat on the back for innovative problem solving while some some political hack gets all the financial bonuses.

That's the problem I have with this. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606871)

Done PROPERLY I can see this being a major positive, especially for morale. "Hey, Bob went to pitch his idea today, but it didn't pan out. I think I see what killed it and I might have a solution for that..."

You're "pitching" your idea to the VP of IT. Isn't the VP supposed to be somewhat intelligent on IT subjects?

If someone else can take your idea and successfully "pitch" it with some changes then isn't the VP "playing favourites"?

Otherwise, wouldn't the VP have been able to help you with the problems and get your idea implemented the first time around?

Granted I also expect massive backstabbing if this is implemented wrong. Instead of collaboration it can very quickly devolve into theft and sabotage.

I think it is even worse than that.

"Failure" here is defined as "the VP did not sign off on your idea".

So the only thing being "learned" from this "failure" is how to pitch your idea to that VP (or who gets the most sign-offs vs who gets the least). That's politics. And politics is all about backstabbing and back-room-deals.

You should not be "failing" if you're doing something that 80%+ of the companies have to deal with.

So the punishment is Sharepoint? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39605977)

Or am I misinterpreting the story?

Re:So the punishment is Sharepoint? (3, Funny)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606041)

Sharepoint in and of itself is a punishment.

Interesting... (4, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 2 years ago | (#39605981)

This guy's way of encouraging new ideas from the employees is a good one. But publishing the failures on a website runs the risk of the website becoming a 'wall of shame' instead of being seen as a reward for having presented the idea in the first place. It also runs the risk of having people submit ideas they know are ridiculous just so they can be given whatever reward comes for presenting an idea at all.

But otherwise his head is screwed on straight as far as I can tell. He's right, it's very difficult to create an organization that rewards new ideas. Almost everything in business is set against this. It's why so many big companies 'innovate' by acquisition. And punishing failure makes the problem worse.

Re:Interesting... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606573)

What is a failure at one time may be a success at another. It doesn't matter how good your solution is if the time or business model is wrong.

Streaming video like YouTube would have been a complete failure if launched in 1991.

Re:Interesting... (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607113)

This guy's way of encouraging new ideas from the employees is a good one. But publishing the failures on a website runs the risk of the website becoming a 'wall of shame' instead of being seen as a reward for having presented the idea in the first place.

Here's a simple question: How much does a failure cost you, and how much does a success make you? If I come up with an idea that was good enough that it _might_ work and create a million dollars profit, and the company spends $10,000 figuring out that it doesn't work and why, and you come up with no idea at all, who do you think is more likely to come up eventually with an idea that works?

Works for Wall Street (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39605983)

Get a government bailout, and start issuing bonuses with the money.

You don't need to learn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39605993)

Look at tablet computers, lots of people tried, their failures helped Apple define what success would look like.

There's two things here. Firstly putting failures on the company internal website, helps inspire people who know how that could have been done successfully. Secondly, it says "it's OK to fail, but it's not OK to not participate".

So he sounds like a good manager. I'm also sure that in the hands of a bad manager, he could do the exact same thing and find a way to screw it up.

Overstated topic title (3, Insightful)

Shoten (260439) | more than 2 years ago | (#39605995)

The title of the slashdot posting missed the point entirely. The point is not to reward failure, but instead to accept it. Failure is an inherent part of moving forward, especially when it comes to innovation. You can't honestly expect every attempt to have a 100% success rate, and if you restrict all new efforts to those which you believe have almost no chance of failing...well, you won't be making many efforts at all. Does anyone remember how many people were skeptical about the first iPad, groaning about the price, about how it wasn't enough to be a computer (which you could also buy at the same cost) but wasn't able to serve as a phone? A failure-intolerant environment would have listened to those concerns, and the iPad never would have launched. And what a mistake THAT would have been..

Re:Overstated topic title (1)

anon mouse-cow-aard (443646) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606065)

I don't think the way our lord Jobs did things provides useful examples for others. As an example, just replace IPAD by any other tablet, and see how it sounds... ie. if RIM had not introuced the Playbook... if you take a probabilistic case, no-one should be launching tablet products, because apple's are the only ones that sell.

Re:Overstated topic title (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606147)

Did anyone ever really make a concerted effort to sell tablets to the masses before Apple? It's certainly true that they existed; I have one of the very oldest, a GRiDPad 1910. And I have its later, smaller cousin which some effort was made to sell to consumers, the 2390/Zoomer. But frankly, most consumers have never heard of it. The iPad, on the other hand...

It makes you wonder if someone else might have been able to do it, but then the question becomes who. Maybe if the BeBox had been a tablet (it would have been big and chunky but it was doable if they didn't try to go PPC which was a massive mistake anyway) things would have played out differently. They looked back instead of forward and didn't go there :)

Re:Overstated topic title (1)

anon mouse-cow-aard (443646) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606501)

1992 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compaq_Concerto [wikipedia.org] . Palm could have grown their devices but didn't, apple tried with newton, windows tablet edition 2005 was originally a demo by MS in 2000. There was a lot of marketing effort around newton and the XP tablet edition, but they didn't sell. Anyone had been looking at history would have given it the thumbs down. Indeed, that's what the analysts were saying.

The point is that what has been done before isn't a good indicator of the future because technology advances (much more capable devices & software) and people understand a lot more. I don't think the ipad would have succeeded without the masses being prepared by the ipod and iphone... The real risk was the first ipod touch in 2007, which was just one type of ipod, and represented little risk in the overall scheme of things. After that, the interface was proven, and it was pretty low risk to do variations on that. Not so for everyone else, because android has never been as polished and consistent an experience, and started years later.

Looking for lessons in what Apple did as an example for others to follow is useless, because no-one else is in Apple's position, and doesn't have the same choices open to it. Example, It was great that Jobs fought against DRM and won, but all the other MP3 players were... well MP3 players, one can't say that the other actors were cheering on the media companies. It's just that Jobs, via ITunes, had a far better negotiating position than anyone else.

Re:Overstated topic title (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607269)

Did anyone ever really make a concerted effort to sell tablets to the masses before Apple?

Yes, but the problem was that they were all hardware manufacturers. Apple was the only company that could make the hardware and also rewrite the software stack to be entirely based on touch for input. Earlier tablets ran operating systems designed for either mouse or pen input and most tried to run legacy software. Few people liked them, because the UI sucked. If Apple had shipped the iPad running OS X and existing Mac apps, it would have been a failure.

Re:Overstated topic title (1)

crystal_rose (2612765) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606705)

A failure-intolerant environment would have listened to those concerns, and the iPad never would have launched. And what a mistake THAT would have been..

OMG! One less device to watch porn on. How could civilisation have survived?

But yes, I do agree with the sentiment of your post. Looks like some VP from TFA actually had the intellect to grasp the message of the 'Three Little Pigs' story we learn as children (learn from mistakes and hopefully do better next time).

You never know. If this keeps up we might, one day (lets not get too far ahead of ourselves), get some management up to high-school comprehension level.

Who is taking the risk? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606017)

The problem with the approach of that VP is that it is NOT HIS MONEY he is playing with.

Certainly almost anybody can come up with dozens of ideas for a 'business', ideas, as they say, are dime a dozen. What makes an idea work is implementation, a lot of sweat, a lot of resources dumped into it, some luck (hopefully you have at least a little bit of that, otherwise sucks to be you).

But the problem with the approach of that VP is that he is not the one taking the risk, he is placing the risk upon the company, is it done with the approval of the investors, shareholders, owners?

Certainly some money can be allocated by any company of a sufficient enough size to try out new ideas (if they make at least some sense from POV of that business), but again, if the failure rate is too high for those ideas, then it really becomes questionable whether the company should be doing it, unless it is the primary business of the company - like a venture capital firm.

I would say that a company should promote innovation, but it should not sign blank cheques to anybody just because they have an idea, that's a recipe for a bankruptcy.

Re:Who is taking the risk? (2)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606087)

Yes, and all of that is why only some of the submitted ideas are granted a pitch meeting, and of those only some of those are granted any degree of funding. This isn't some internal dot-com craze where everyone gets a million shares and an Aeron chair just for showing up.

Re:Who is taking the risk? (1)

maple_shaft (1046302) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606309)

What makes an idea work is implementation, a lot of sweat, a lot of resources dumped into it, some luck (hopefully you have at least a little bit of that, otherwise sucks to be you).

Ahhh yes... pulling yourself up from your bootstraps or some such garbage.

If there is one thing I learned about business, it is that when it comes to success, hard work is probably #3 in importance. First and second is who you know and blind fucking luck respectively. People who still believe that successful wealthy people got that way from working harder than everybody else are deluding themselves.

Re:Who is taking the risk? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606335)

Who you know and luck are important, but nothing will happen with crazy amount of work and sweat. I know people who started their store chains from scratch, people who have other types of businesses, some in IT, some in manufacturing. It take insane amount of work to get their businesses off the ground.

I am running my own businesses, working all the time. I am posting on /. when I am in front of a computer between compiling code, checking how the installations are doing. When I go for business trips, you won't see any of my comments, so as an example for 3 weeks from 8th of March I was almost completely absent from here, I was meeting people, participating in exhibitions, going to different countries and cities. Work never ends.

The work never ends at all when you run your own business, and making it a profitable business is extremely hard. People who I know all work all the time, weekends, nights, they don't take time off like their employees.

Re:Who is taking the risk? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606387)

but nothing will happen with crazy amount of work and sweat.

- without crazy amount of work.

I have NEVER worked as hard when I was on a permanent position (95-2000) and when I was contracting for other companies (2001-2009) as I have to do now, that I am running my own IT business, selling products that I built myself.

The idea that people just have to be lucky and just know the right people - this idea obviously is true for a number of cases, such as POLITICS and government protected monopolies (banking, insurance, military, energy, education, food, whatever).

When it's your own business, who do you think you go to for help? Government? You do everything you can to succeed and if you fail, there will be nobody standing there, socialising your loss.

Only big government related corporations have that privilege.

There IS entitlement for large corporations and for majority of employees, because government gives them entitlements and puts obligations on the employers. Well, guess what, the large corporate employers, who are connected to the government have ways of socialising the costs of those entitlement programs for the employees, but the small businesses, the people who DO pull themselves by the 'bootstraps' have none of that, they ARE the ones that end up paying all these nonsense taxes, they ARE the ones who are forced to comply with the insane regulations, because they have no lobbyists and they have no time to do any of that politicking themselves.

Try and run your own business.

Can't take this story seriously (1)

seandiggity (992657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606029)

It sounds too much like something Dunder Mifflin would do.

Better Yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606031)

Better yet, don't gut the IT department because other parts of the business have failed.

There's an old Microsoft story that's apropos (4, Interesting)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606035)

A salesman once screwed up and lost a contract early in Microsoft's history, then appeared before Bill Gates expecting to be fired for his mistake. Instead Bill told him that his job was secure, because (I'm paraphrasing like mad here) he'd learned a valuable lesson and knew an approach that would not work next time, so it was better for the company to keep him rather than hire someone else without this experience.

Not a new idea among clueful bosses, in other words.

Re:There's an old Microsoft story that's apropos (4, Insightful)

john.r.strohm (586791) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606317)

That may or may not have happened at Microsoft.

It is a repeat of a story that happened decades earlier at IBM, back when Watson was running the company. The hapless salesman had just cost the company MILLIONS of dollars, when millions of dollars was still real money. He expected to be fired. Supposedly, Watson said something like "I can't afford to fire you now, not after spending millions of dollars on your education!"

We reward failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606069)

Usually with promotion. At the very least, being left alone for years or being side kicked into another team or section.

I have watched people for years do nothing, or next to nothing, and still turn up for work. Nothing happens. Employees who cut time to ridiculous levels, those who can't actually do their job, and of course those who are just incompetent.

Who do I work for?

The Australian Government.

So easy to get in. So easy to stay in. Come on in, and have a job for life doing absolutely nothing.

With the recent consolidation of the various DHS departments it is even easier to hide in the layers of bureaucracy with all of the managers grasping for power.

We reward failure.

subtlety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606083)

This sounds like a plan to make Marketing do R&D at reduced pay.

This is not rewarding failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606169)

I did not read the article, but I don't think prasing original, yet unused ideas, is the same as rewarding failure.

If you want your employees to come forward with new ideas, you can either punish them for not coming up with new ideas, or reward employees for new ideas. Here, the company has decided that they want to reward employees for coming up with new innovations, even if they aren't used.

Its not like the employees are failing at their job or anything. The idea just didn't pan out. Would it be better for them not to innovate at all?

As the Great One put it (2)

yesterdaystomorrow (1766850) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606219)

In hockey, the most prolific scorers attempt a *lot* of shots. Many are blocked, many miss, many are saved by the goalie. But a few are goals. Gretzky said it best: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Wow, great newsstory! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606243)

Here, done my part.

binary stupidity (2)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606263)

While it's a cute idea, they're still trapped in a binary, aristotelian model of the world that isn't adequate at all.

Very few things in the real world really are clearly distinguishable as "success" or "failure". So we introduce arbitrary criteria, but these fail us as often as they are useful. A lot of innovations came out of "failures".

The solution isn't to reward failure - it is to do away with the concept. So I failed that arbitrary milestone or project goal. Unless the project was a customer request, the real question should be what was actually accomplished.

Because it cuts the other way around, too. One of the unsolved issues of capitalism is the focus on short-term goals and "success" measured in quarterly numbers. It is a massive incentive for deciders to take large, but hidden, risks. Quite a few companies have gone broke only months after paying their executives huge bonuses for their "success".

Because too few people ask the question what it really means for the company to have raised its market share to arbitrary value X and reduced its personal cost to arbitrary value Y while maintaining some arbitrary ratio or key figure at arbitrary value Z.

Because a proper look at failure also requires a proper perspective on success, I doubt we will see it happen, because too much money is in the illusion of "success".

Dudes... It's Toilet Paper (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606393)

Not that there's anything wrong with that. But how much innovation do they expect, and how high do we expect employee morale to climb? Comparisons to Microsoft and Google elude me.

Re:Dudes... It's Toilet Paper (3, Insightful)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606647)

You're simply short-sighted there. Someone can e.g. come up with more productive way of handling packaging, logistics, or even improving the paper itself. And it's not limited only there as someone can come up with whole new business idea to try out, a related but completely different product to produce.

Re:Dudes... It's Toilet Paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39607477)

Maybe someone will bring back full-sized rolls.

Re:Dudes... It's Toilet Paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39607001)

Hey, your sh*trag is his bread and butter

Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606593)

The Dems are still in control, aren't they?

30 minutes of infantilization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39606755)

I hope this is not just a suggestion box with innovation theater added. But how could it be otherwise?

Kimberly-Clark is in a highly commoditized industry. How is IT going to affect the bottom line by more than a percent? It's absurd to think that IT could boost profits by any margin worthy of the salaries of these IT Idol judges.

Paper is a pretty amazing substance. The possibilities haven't been exhausted. IT isn't going to add much to the bottom line, though. Do an idea pageant with your product engineers, you nimrods. You don't see Apple Inc. doing this kind of stunt. This looks like Apple emulation and pure theater, though.

Innovation does not pay the bills (1)

etudiant (45264) | more than 2 years ago | (#39606947)

While it is encouraging to see innovation as a management focus, the more interesting story is glossed over.
How is Kimberly keeping the lights on with a crushed IT department?
It seems the basics must be running pretty well if a new IT guy can come in and focus on innovation opportunities. It would help to know if the goal is cost reduction or service enhancement.

so if they fuck up my order at wendy's (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607317)

im supposed to give them more money to try again? what kind of bullshit is this?

im not against innovation, but im against blatantly unfair corporate practices, where you have one class of people who fuck up their way to the top, while masses of people get fired if they show up a minute late or lose 25 cents of material on a production line.

Reward Failure? (1)

kpainter (901021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39607509)

"Paper products maker Kimberly-Clark drove the morale of its IT infrastructure group into the ground after massive firings and outsourcing."
They rewarded failure by doing this in the first place.
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