Episode #37 The Art of Successful Failure

Episode 37 December 21, 2023 00:26:19
Episode #37 The Art of Successful Failure
Coffee With Cush
Episode #37 The Art of Successful Failure

Dec 21 2023 | 00:26:19

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Show Notes

In this enlightening episode of Coffee with Cush, Aziz Musa, our CEO and Founder, delves into a topic that deeply resonates with both organizations and individuals: The Art of Successful Failure. Over a cup of Colombian Dark Roast, Aziz explores how the fear of failure, rooted in our educational and societal norms, often hinders personal and professional growth. He breaks down the paradox of 'successful failure' and how it's intrinsically linked to the industry, especially in the digital realm where failing fast equals learning fast.

Aziz brings forward the concept that failure is not about setbacks but about accelerated learning. He shares how Cush Digital has ingrained a culture of successful failure, making it mandatory to experiment, learn, and share. The episode is a treasure trove of insights, with Aziz discussing how to create a safe environment for failure, differentiate between productive failure and negligence, and the importance of cycling through failures quickly to achieve success.

Listeners will also hear Aziz address questions from the audience, providing practical advice for small business owners, tech startup founders, and marketing leaders. He emphasizes the need for a culture shift in viewing failure not as a detriment but as a stepping stone to innovation and growth.

This episode is not just a podcast; it's a call to rethink our approach to failure, both in personal and professional contexts. It's a must-listen for anyone looking to break free from the fear of failure and embrace a growth mindset in the rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Ready to transform how you view failure and success? Visit Cush Digital to learn more about our innovative approach and how we can help your business thrive in the digital world. Don’t forget to follow and listen to more episodes of Coffee with Cush for insightful discussions that propel you forward!

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Episode Transcript

Hello, welcome to another episode of Coffee with Kush, Colombian Dark Roast today. And I need it. Today we are talking about the art of successful failure. So a topic was like really close to my heart. It's something that I see so often in organizations and individuals as well. It kind of limits people's growth, it really limits their own ability to move forward. And so much of it is up here. So let me just talk about what do I mean by failure? first successful failure sounds like a paradox, right? It's or an oxymoron more accurately, in that how can you be successful and fail simultaneously? The two things that are entirely interrelated. Now, it kind of depends on the industry that you work in. If you're building bridges. I don't mean like in that, let's shake hands, sentence. I mean, literally, you're building a bridge across a river. There is no failure allowed. Okay, you have to be successful, there is no failure allowed. You're literally people's lives are in your hands, same if you're a doctor. But for most industries, particularly nowadays, in the digital space, for sure. We that mindset is a really limiting mindset. Because what that mindset says, is that, okay, we have to make everything perfect, it's got to be exactly right first time, there's no options apart from that. So what you do is you have lots and lots of planning, and adjusting, and tweaking and adjusting and tweaking. And if you are doing that process, and the end result is a bridge across the river scenario, then that's exactly what you have to do. But if the end result of that constant tweaking, and testing and tweaking, and testing is a YouTube video, well, you've just spent six months on one YouTube video, and you've learned very, very little in the process. And that's kind of like the point is that really, failure is about accelerated learning. Yeah. Now, when I say failure, what I mean is that you deliberately do something, knowing that you don't know the end result, but only to get the data to learn more. And it's a cycle. So you have an idea, you, you know, wireframe, the idea, you create the idea, you expect a certain results, you release the idea, you see the result and analyze that data. And then you do that circle that cycle over and over and over again. And if you are able to do that efficiently and quickly, then you're gonna learn so much as an individual Yes, but as an organization even more. And that's something that we've really incorporated into coach digital. So in coach digital, we have like an experiments board, we've got a culture of successful failure, it is a culture whereby you are, it's not just that you're encouraged to experiment, it is like expected, it is mandatory, that you will actually try something new, and as often as possible, but not just randomly, you get the idea. You wireframe it, you create it, you expect a result, you release it and see the results. And then you go through that process over and over again, you share the data internally. So successful failure in that sense is really, really important. Because frankly, the faster you can go through those cycles, the more that you learn, the more that you learn, the more market share you'll get, the quicker you'll grow, and on and on and on. So why is it that people really struggle with this mindset? I think a lot of it comes back from school, in school, you know, basically, we are taught to be engineers, right? We're taught to be scientists, whereby failure is not an option doctors whereby failure isn't an option. We are trained to be good employees who are diligent, and only do the thing that's in front of us. And therein lies I think, the major issue in global education systems. There are specific education systems, which have made a shift over the last 20 years. But generally speaking, you know, I was educated in the UK and it was absolutely true there. Certainly it was true in Sudan as well, where I'm from and, you know, the reality is that we're trained to be good employees. If we get something wrong with chastised and if we get something right, then that's the expectation, so nothing happens. There's no reward, or worse still, now, there's a reward for everyone, which means there's also no reward. So, you know, I think that the education system has a lot to play in Ireland psychology, because we essentially know that the cost of failure is high and the cost of sucks and the benefit of success is low. So the actual like if you were to get In theory, this out, the actual best answer is to do nothing. Yeah, in that kind of a scenario, I think education plays a big part in that, obviously, home life plays a big part in that. But ultimately, what we want to get to is you can all you can undo all of that stuff, you know, your history doesn't define your future, you can just rewire you can recode, what's going on in your brain, and a lot of times, just awareness alone is enough to rewire the thinking in your brain. And so that's what this podcast is really about. It's about making you aware, if you have some of these habits, how you can sort of overcome them, and how you can create a different, a different approach to, to, to your business, to your work life to your career. And actually, when I learned this, I mean, it accelerated my career, like, massively so quickly. And I think one large part that I had to overcome was disappointing people, that was really important, I'm going to get into that coffee first. So what I mean by disappointing people is doing something wrong, or my boss not being happy. That was always something that really held me back, it really made me want to be sure that I was doing the right thing every time. Eventually, what I learned is that most of my bosses, I mean, I always worked in the digital space, which was always very helpful. Most of my bosses cared more about the effort. Yeah. So what I learned is that actually, if I did 100 things, and 10 of them were great. And 90 of them sucked, they really only focus on the 10 that were great. And so it became a case of like, How can I cycle? How can I scale quicker. And I did have very deliberate conversations with some of my bosses, I remember one, one of my [email protected], where I sat down and had a because I was taking a long time on a very specific task, because I wanted it to be perfect. It was very early in my career. And he kept saying, like, why is it taking so long? I was like, what, because I want to do this, and I want to do that want to do this. And in the end, he said, Well, you just do it. And then we'll iterate. It's easier to iterate on something that exists than to create something that doesn't. So create, then iterate. And so that kind of stuck with me. And I think those early lessons really helped me sort of build this concept of successful failure. It's, of course, it's not my concept. Zuckerberg said, you know, fail fast, learn fast. And essentially, that's the same thing. That's exactly what I'm saying. Fail fast, but learn from that process, and move on to the next one. While we're on the topic of Zuckerberg, have you noticed how most super successful leaders are not particularly charismatic or highly emotional? They don't live all the way up here, or all the way down there, at least not in that public persona, as maybe they do in the private personas, but certainly not in that public persona is that Elon Musk Bay's us, most of them sit in the middle of Bill Gates, they sit right there in the middle, in their public personas, there are some notable exceptions. You know, the late Steve Jobs, of course, but for the most part, they sit there and I think that really helps them with this mentality of fail fast, learn fast, because they don't get overly emotional when they're failing. And they don't get overly emotional when they're successful. It's all just a journey to the next step is all just moving forward, moving forward as quickly and as efficiently as possible. And of course, they're all working in, in software, right. You know, I guess Elon Musk is slightly different because of the, you know, the various industries that he's in, but even when, when his rockets explode, and you sit there and you're like, Oh, my God, he must be gutted, you see an interview and he goes, Yeah, it's expected to explode. If it didn't explode. It would be weird. It's like yeah, so he's literally embraced this concept. He is like a founding father of you like of this concept of successful failure. It is okay to fail. As long as you're learning from that and you're moving to the next step. As a leader, the most important element in successful failure is creating a safe space. So my boss that last minute did not come Saturday. He he did exactly that. He created a safe space for me. He creates To the place where it was okay for me to not be perfect, as long as I was moving fast and in the right, nominally in the right direction. And creating that safe space is really, really important and sometimes can be difficult. How it really looks in terms of tangible things that you can do as a leader is you really encourage or even mandate people to take risks. And then you celebrate successes, of course, but more importantly, you celebrate the failures publicly, you celebrate the effort, you celebrate the effort to do that, if anyone watches football, or soccer for us listeners, particularly in the UK, is very specifically in the UK, you see a lot in Italy as well, you're watching football, if you don't understand what's happening in football, if you're just watching the game, then someone will kick the ball backwards, and suddenly you'll hear the crowd cheer, and you won't understand what's going on. But as people who know what football is what the crowd has seen, is they've seen someone Chase back the length of the field, in order to push the opponent back to their goalkeeper. And so the effort itself is rewarded with the chair. And of course that brings in more chairs. And so it sort of brings everyone around them to push more effort in, you say, again, I'm going to carry on with the football analogy, like, you'll see someone put in a really strong tackle in the middle of the field. No, no, the goal doesn't stop or saying anything. But the crowd will go wild. There'll be like, really applauding the effort. Yeah. And so every other player will get that energy and move forward and push harder and tackle harder. That's what you've got to do, as a leader applaud the effort, celebrating the effort, regardless of whether it's successful or not. You just applaud them and celebrate the effort. And that will help create this culture of moving fast, trying new things. And most importantly, creating a safe space. I remember in 2012, Google did, they had a study project. Greek philosopher, Aristotle project, Aristotle it was called. So this one thing, Google defined as the difference between high performing teams and individuals, a low performing teams and individuals. And they did it through Project Aristotle, they were deliberately looking to find high performing teams and individuals. And what they found was that the highest performing teams that were rated highest by executives and managers, were those who had the safest work environments. Safety doesn't refer to health and safety, like, Are they comfortable in their terror or anything? It refers to? how free are they to experiment and express themselves? Yeah, and that was the defining factor in the success or otherwise, of a team. And we should learn from that, right. And that was 11 years ago. And it's so strange to me to see so many companies sticking to these in the digital space, in particular, sticking to the mentality of, of, you know, we're building bridges. And so we can't fail and any failures a problem. And what that does, as well as it can create, if you have like Machiavellian people in your organization, it can create an environment where people are deliberately looking to find problems, right? And that, again, it's just not healthy. It's not good business. It doesn't help individuals progress, it certainly doesn't help the business progress. So a safe environment I think is critical. All right. I think couple more things on successful failure, how we do it here. So the first thing is that we make sure all of our clients are aware that this is what we do. We don't have all of the answers. We only have in fact one answer, and that is how to get to the answer. So it doesn't matter. That's why we're industry agnostic apart from cigarettes and alcohol and like CBD oils and things like that. And crypto we, we work in almost any industry, right America in health care or in automotives or travel and tourism. It doesn't matter at what scale if you're super high end or if you're Butlins, it really doesn't matter to us. The industry that you work in because our process is industry agnostic, it is geography agnostic, it is language agnostic, it really doesn't matter. The only thing we know how to do is how to get the answer to the question. How do we grow? That's it. That's all we specialize in. And we make sure that our clients really understand that and we talk them through the process. We go We do our research, we look at what competitors are doing, which can give us like a framework of like, the language that people use the specific terminologies that they use that kind of photography. That's right, we create a brand book, or they don't have one, or we take their brand book, and we incorporate it. But ultimately, what we do is we come out with experiments, loads of experiments, and every piece of content, we might produce 200 pieces of content for a client in a single month. But every single one of those pieces of content is a live experiment. To understand, right, what nudges the needle for this client? So we start with the objectives, what is it exactly that you want to achieve? Again, a lot of clients say, Oh, we just want to, we want to be famous, who you're targeting everyone. Okay? That's not really what you want to achieve. So what do you really want to do is why it's so important for us to always talk to the to the CEOs, and C levels is, what do you want? And the answer is almost always one of two. We need more customers, that's the most common answer. We need our marketing to drive more cost customers, both startups, a common answer is we need people to know that we exist, particularly if it's a brand new product in a brand new industry now happens quite a lot. So if you're brand new, both products industry, then it's about awareness. But generally speaking, what people want, are more customers or awareness. And so great, now we have a really clear objective, we have to define the customer. And then we build these experiments out, and we just launched them. And that's why I like every client that's been with us every single month, they see their numbers doing this every month. It's not because we like understand the industry better than they do is because we understand people. And we understand and we've created a culture here whereby failure isn't just important, it is mandatory. It is a mandatory part of working with Coach digital, nobody gets chastised for failing, you'll get chastised for not trying, though you don't try, then that's a problem. But you try something it doesn't work out. That's okay. That's what we do. That's normal. What do we learn from it? Okay, let's go again. Next, next, next, and on and on. And it's a continuous process of continuous evolution. All right, I got some questions from listeners. So let's pull them up. So my laptop's on the side today. That haven't forgot. Let's say, we have Laura. Laura is a small business owner, how can small businesses with limited resources effectively create a culture that embraces failure? Well, you are in the ideal space, to create a culture to embrace failure, because whatever your small business is, you have an idea that it's going to be successful, but you need to be nimble enough to know how to tweak it. Okay. So the way to do it is, firstly, to work on you as an individual, Laura. So ask yourself, What are your heuristics around failure? What are your beliefs around failure? And then if you find that they are negative, you need to work on that. Because the team that you hire when you hire people, they need to accept that failure is a mandatory step towards success. Okay. So with limited resources, that's exactly what you want to do. run experiments, understand your target, the president we just talked through, run the experiments, learn, do it again and celebrate the failures, celebrate the effort, just like the clouds doing the football, celebrate the effort. Okay. Raj Patel, a tech. Okay, so as a founder of a startup in the tech space, in your experiments, if sorry, in your experience, what's a memorable failure that led to a significant breakthrough for your company? That's a good question. Yes, I worked at a company 2009, maybe 2010. And we were in the gifting space, purely online e commerce very well known in the gifting space. 2009 2010 mobile internet was becoming a real thing. Before that. It was mostly whap. Most of you won't even know what it is. But trust me, it sucked. Right. So mobile internet was becoming a thing. And what we measured on a daily basis, we measured lots of things, but the one thing that I was as the head of product was most responsible for was conversion, whilst the conversion rate visitors the orders, okay, as a convert as a percentage. So, what we noticed is that over the year in 2010, I think it was there was a gradual, but very clear decline in conversion rate. And at first it was so imperceptible, we didn't really notice it and then as we got past the summer, it was becoming a problem and then all of our profit happens over Christmas. It was a gifting company. So we found out around October time, having done research, that the issue was mobile internet was that people were accessing our website more and more via mobile devices. I mean, it was a complete and utter nightmare, frankly, because at this rate, we would lose something like 15 million pounds sterling around $23 million over the Christmas period, purely because we couldn't serve people on a mobile device. So I spoke to the leadership team and the CEO, and they gave me a little bit of funding to take a small team to solve this problem. We got six people, we got a room, a war room, we sat in the War Room, and we weren't we did everything we wireframe. We tested, we went to Starbucks with our wireframes. And we bought people coffees and sat them down said, What do you think of this on your phone and, and got feedback, and we created a mobile product, it was one of the first in our industry to exist. The reason it was one of the fastest because we were using technology called Flash, to create things online for gifts, but different story. So we created this mobile product, and we had to launch it. The problem is there's a there was a code freeze six weeks before Christmas, because you don't want any code changing over the Christmas period in case there's an issue. So it's a day before the code freeze. And we're like, can we launch this summer? Are we allowed to vote it? Can we launch it, and we launched it, look, our objective was to get 50,000 US dollars in orders just from this mobile experience. And that would have been a successful, successful proof of concept. And the the actual result is that, you know, over that six week period, in fact, over the first six days, we made half a million dollars in orders. Over the six week period, we made over five and a half million dollars, we massively exceeded the online experience in terms of conversion rate. So it was a huge success. But it started from like a prolonged failure of not really understanding the variance in mobile conversion rates. Emily, let's just do two more. Okay, so Emily, how do you differentiate between a productive failure or failure due to negligence or poor planning? Right? This is a really good question. People ask me this a lot. What's the difference between just being crap? And having a good failure? I think this comes down to hiring culture. Who do you hire? And how do you hire them? I think it's really important. So what you really want to do is what we want to do is we want to hire people who are instinctively cautious, there, instinctively, very diligent, okay. And that failure to them is a problem, because it's a lot easier to train somebody like that to accept failure as a natural part of the process than it is to train somebody who is laissez faire, and get them to be to fail, but to fail without mistakes. Okay. And there is a difference between making a mistake and a failure, these two things are different. So I think it comes down to hiring culture, the main difference between the two is that negligence and neglect are part of listening, that happens to nobody's perfect. And there's no point in chastising people for for small things unless it becomes something that's recurring, a recurring issue, but for individual mistakes, everybody makes them. I've probably made 20 In this podcast alone, but that's a normal thing. The difference between like a mistake, and a failure is that the failure is expected and planned for. Yeah, whereas mistakes are not expected and happen randomly. And so I think that's kind of the main difference, or I'm gonna do one more. Marcus, who is team leader in a marketing agency? Can you share a strategy for maintaining team morale and motivation, even after a significant failure? Yes, Marcus, I think what's really important for leaders like you, is to keep everything in perspective for you, and for the team. And I am fortunate enough to be able to use perspective a lot, because, you know, for people who know our history, we were based in Sudan, and there was a wall right in front of the office, and we have to leave Sudan. And so that brings perspective into very crystal clear focus very suddenly all the small things don't matter anymore. And I think that regardless of how significant the failure is, unless it actually kills the business, you can always come back from it. And frankly, even if it does kill the business, you can come back from that too as an individual. And I think that's the most important thing is to give people perspective, give them the perspective that these things do happen. We're going to learn from it. But it isn't the end of the world. It never is. It's never the end of the world. Right? So I think that, you know, keeping perspective and as a leader of showing that sort of common logical approach and giving people the space. Sometimes if it's a really big disaster, when you lose a client, or as a result, there's some grieving that happens in the agency world, but what I know that right, so you got to give them the space to have that grieving first not just attack it straightaway on the day, but then after that, spend the time with people to give them perspective, what we lost one client, we gained 18 Over the last 12 months. You know, I mean, it's not a big deal. These things happen. Right? So yeah, give people perspective. All right. So I hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you do, please make sure to share it and like it and if you see a little clip, it's on tick tock, go and listen to the whole thing. And I'll be back again soon with the next episode of Coffee with cash Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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