March 1

A senior manager from a large company once confided in me that he was frustrated that his organization wouldn’t allow him to pursue some of his ideas. I replied that perhaps his ideas simply aren’t the right ones. “No, it’s not that,” he clarified. “It’s that they are stuck in the past.” I asked him to elaborate. It turns out that his manager didn’t like one of his ideas because, as he put it, “we tried that back in the 1980s and it didn’t work, so I don’t think we should try it.” Thus I began to better understand my client’s frustration.

Have more than a few things changed since the 1980s? Of course. But this company was living with a baked-in assumption based on a thirty-year-old failure that may or may not even be relevant to the current situation.

We are often quick to dismiss past failures and move on, but sometimes it is worth revisiting them. That particular failure may have had less to do with the idea and more to do with the timing. If a brilliant product, message, or system is introduced at the wrong time, it can fail nonetheless. If introduced only a few years later, it’s a smashing success.

Consider past failures and any assumptions that might still be affecting your work today.

Past failures may only have been be a matter of timing.

What past idea may have failed because of timing, not because of the idea itself? Is there a way you can resurrect it?

Related Articles