On Tuesday, AList presented our panel ‘THE REBOUND: Recovering From Failure’ at Advertising Week New York. The notion of failure conjures of up feelings of fear and dread but stumbling is an inevitable part of life. We gathered chief marketing officers from GE Ventures and Business Innovations, Equinox, Sundance Institute and Getty Images to share insights into how they maintain a healthy attitude around failure and how to react when it happens.
We often look at the concept of failure as somewhere you end up if you don’t achieve perfection.
“Failure is not a destination, it’s just a point along the way,” said Vimla Black Gupta, chief marketing officer of Equinox. “As I’ve gone throughout my career, every failure has been a gift because it informed a future success.”
Gupta said that when she began her career, failure was not an option. Now, she fails mindfully.
It’s one thing to accept that failure happens, but we asked our panelists how they try to prevent it from happening in the first place. Getty Images CMO Gene Foca told us that he borrowed a preparation technique from his days at Amazon. Every document and every idea from his junior staff must be carefully explained in detail along with supporting data so that they take ownership.
“Rather than plan for the eventuality of failure, you prepare to minimize failure,” explained Foca. “Failure is an inevitable part of what we do as business leaders, decision-makers and marketers. In our world at Getty Images, failure can range from daily testing all the way to a much bigger event that might entail promoting a book for one of our photojournalists.”
At the Sundance Institute, CMO Monica Halpert and her team have changed the way they prepare for the unexpected. They adopted two mindsets that she says have been pivotal to this preparation—”safe to try” and “progress over perfection.” After reviewing all the angles, Halpert and her team will move forward with an idea if they believe it to be “safe to try.” That way, she said, if they fail they do so while living their best life. Halpert admitted to losing sleep over details like fonts and colors, a behavior that got in the way of progress. Now, she encourages her team to keep moving forward, even if the result hasn’t exceeded their wildest dreams.
For young marketers especially, speaking up about a problem can be just as scary as failing altogether. Once you realize something isn’t going as planned, everyone on the panel agreed that it’s better to express your concerns than keep it in and watch everything go up in smoke.
“Make sure you own your seat at the table,” advised Dara Treseder, CMO of GE Ventures. “I think finding and using your voice is so critical. Give yourself permission to speak up.”
Another piece of advice for audiences at Advertising Week’s NewGen Stage was to listen to your gut. Halpert recalled a time when she failed by taking the wrong job. Even though she convinced herself and the company that it was perfect for her, she knew it wasn’t right. If you don’t feel like something is right on the job, be sure you can clearly articulate it so courses can be corrected.
“At the end of the day, we’re all consumers—we’re all people. I [tell my team], ‘if you feel it, find a way to articulate it. Even when the answer is not readily available or apparent and ist time’s it’s not, it’s really about having a discussion and scenario of planning of what we do next. I feel like that moment of honesty is so important.”
If you’d like to watch a replay of THE REBOUND: Recovering From Failure, click here.