Moving Forward & Overcoming Failure

Although our group did not get to speak with Dr. Schwartz for this paper, we felt that his previous insights provided enough information for us to address this prompt. Collaborative action was a unique innovation in that it had never been done before, which meant Dr. Schwartz had no model for implementing it. In a sense, he expressed that this was a blessing, as starting from the bottom can foster maximum innovation (Slotnik & Schulten, 2012). To take advantage of this, he planned and embraced selective scarcity. He gave himself a timeline for completing every task, whether it was researching, model building, or listening to customers (Anthony, 2008; Gerber, 2011).

Needless to say, fully investing in a novel idea requires risk taking, and Dr. Schwartz always expressed that taking this step helped grow his idea. Sometimes, “daring to be crap” is fruitful (Satell, 2016). Not only does this teach, it also pushes one to explore new directions and create a novel implementation process. At one point, Dr. Schwartz left his tenure at Northwestern to pursue a new career outside of his native university realm, and this was where he learned the most about himself. Namely, he ascertained the value of persistence and focus as well as the need to leverage resources. These are three traits that Richard St. John’s Ted Talk (n.d.) highlighted as necessary for long-term success and progress.

I believe Dr. Schwartz’s one key implementation strategy was his GRIT. He always exuded a growth mindset (Dweck, 2006). He knew that each day brought new challenges and opportunities that would foster progress; he simply needed to be aware and take advantage of them. Furthermore, he was resilient in times of struggle, especially when he left Northwestern and failed in his new venture. Yet, his tenacity was irrepressible. He recollected himself, followed his instincts, and eventually became victorious (Perkins-Gough, 2013).

However, he never would have been able to move forward had he not leveraged his resources by delegating tasks and learning from others. Dr. Schwartz emphasized that while we are all strong and capable of anything, we all have our weaknesses. Recognizing those limitations early on gave him the opportunity to identify others that were strong in those areas. He quickly jumped on their abilities and assigned them specific tasks, so that he could focus on what he was good at (Anthony, 2008).

Yet, he did not shun his weaknesses. He worked with those individuals and learned from them, or as he would say, took “effective action”. He pushed his boundaries and improved himself, which are two of Richard St. John’s Traits that Lead to Great Success (n.d.). Thus by inducing collaborative action in collaborative action’s development, Dr. Schwartz surely avoided potential failure and moved forward quickly.

It can be inferred that Dr. Schwartz employed Anthony’s (2008) quick win strategy as well. He developed collaborative action by testing his idea directly: he would convene businesses, engage them in a session, and gather their personal feedback. What was unique about this was that he viewed each session as a “quick win” on the path to complete success, which gave him the momentum to continue collaborative action’s development. In essence, he fed off criticism (Slotnik & Schulten, 2012).

Of course failures arose, but he did not wallow in them. Instead, he demonstrated GRIT by persevering. He looked to his colleagues for support and recognized the value of teamwork (Perkins-Gough, 2013). Had we been able to speak to him, I believe this would have been his key insight into how to move forward with our idea. Collaborative action is about building on each other’s thoughts and ultimately using teamwork to generate novel ideas. These principles are also true of our project. In success and in failure, we should depend on our group mates for support because together we can rise from the bottom, achieve new heights, and prevent burnout (Wiens & McKee, 2016).

Dr. Schwartz would also want us to embrace selective scarcity, as planning permitted him to anticipate potential threats (Anthony, 2008). Here, we should remember our goals, and the goals of the customer because no matter what stage one is at, innovation is always “a continuing interaction process” between you and the customer (Dr. Schwartz, n.d.; Byrne, 2009). To ensure this principle is met, always ask for feedback, whether it is from Triadex, the professors, or other innovators. This form of deliberate practice is a tool Dr. Schwartz used in responding and reacting to threats to ensure success (Satell, 2016).

All in all, Dr. Schwartz maximized progress by balancing preparation with action. He did his best to understand exactly what it was that his customers wanted and developed an action plan to get there. He identified potential sources of trouble, but left room for future revisions. Furthermore, Dr. Schwartz considered his personal strengths and weaknesses and delegated certain tasks to individuals who could better complete them (Anthony, 2008).

When taking action, Dr. Schwartz followed his plan, but recognized the importance of responsible risk taking, since it is impossible to foresee all adversity and opportunity (Costa & Kallick, 2008). In addition, he made sure to treat every application of collaboration as a mastery experience (Gerber, 2011). He was there to learn just as much as he was to lead.

Taking this into consideration, it’s evident that Dr. Schwartz embodies Zimmerman’s (2002) self-awareness skill and Gerber’s (2011) innovation self-efficacy quality. Dr. Schwartz recognized his limits, but believed in his ability to partake in the innovation process. While he was a planner, he knew that collaborative action would always be in perpetual beta; meaning he recognized collaborative action was not perfect and could always be improved upon (Satell, 2016). He used this as energy to continuously mold collaborative action into the esteemed tool it is today. For all these reasons, I believe Dr. Schwartz is an innovative leader.

Revamping the Triadex Cares program is no easy feat, so it is imperative to incorporate selective scarcity and leverage external resources. Anthony (2008) illustrates that selective scarcity builds on the principles of time, focus, and task designation. Thus, we suggest that Triadex begin by establishing weekly goals. Not only will breaking down the concept make it more manageable, but it also will help Triadex embrace it and visualize success (Byrne, 2009). After 30 days, Triadex can convene, debrief about progress made, and assess the next steps that need to be taken.

It also would be beneficial for Triadex to embrace selective scarcity by building on the task designation principle. Anthony (2008) depicts that every business has employees that think differently. Such individuals itch to branch out and have the growth mindset necessary to head an innovation process (Dweck, 2006). In addition, this person will help reframe certain aspects of innovation, like failure and uncertainty, into more fruitful, positive processes like opportunity and curiosity (Girotra & Netessine, 2014; Gerber, 2011). Having an innovation space where employees can dare to be crap will further this initiative and promote innovation as well (Satell, 2016)

One of the key tasks Triadex wanted us to address was its carbon footprint, which we do not have the means to do. However, there are various companies that Triadex can hire to do this like Strategic Sustainability Consulting. Not only will such businesses calculate its carbon footprint, but they will also help Triadex establish a sustainability plan and report. A public sustainability report is one of Mosaic’s key insights, as it shows progress and increases transparency. These are two qualities potential customers look for (Johnson, 2013). Thus by leveraging external resources, Triadex would be able to advance faster (Anthony, 2008).

As previously highlighted, partitioning this idea into more manageable tasks and debriefing periods will ease the implementation process (Anthony, 2008). To begin, our group suggests having a 30-day milestone timeline that ultimately ends with an action plan for launching the innovation. This timeline is broken down into 4 weeks, with each week building off the previous. Furthermore, it incorporates reflection points, which are key for staying on task and building a self-aware environment (Zimmerman, 2002; Byrne, 2009).

The first milestone would be to schedule and have lunch meetings with potential eco-friendly partners that participate in areas such as reforestation, water cleaning, or emission reduction research. This permits Triadex to connect with organizations, share its goals, and research who would be willing to partner. Triadex needs to consider these organizations’ goals and discern whether they align with Triadex’s values. Furthermore, Triadex should embrace social persuasion by highlighting that these companies would be able to advertise on Triadex’s website and spread their cause (Gerber, 2011).

After reflecting on Milestone 1, Triadex begins Milestone 2. This week is focused on the main beneficiaries of the idea: the customers. Here, Triadex should scout current customers to have a similar lunch discussion with and develop ways to induce social persuasion again (Gerber, 2011). Businesses that may be good test segments are those who also produce environmentally harmful or unsustainable products like Omaha Steaks or Miracle-Ear (Selina Perez, n.d.). Seeking these strategic buyers will aid Triadex in gaining customer support and establishing a social responsibility (Onyemah et al, 2013).

In Milestone 3, Triadex should share its idea with its selected customers using the social persuasion tools developed in Milestone 2. These meetings also should be viewed as a chance to receive feedback (Gerber, 2011). Key points to be highlighted are that the customer: gets to choose where its donation goes to at no cost to them, is able to label themselves as an eco-friendly company without having to commit to partnerships, and could see revenue increase as new eco-friendly consumers are drawn to them. Finally, Triadex could share how a Seattle-based business chose Triadex specifically for its eco-efforts. These customer value propositions are what will get customers to support the idea (Byrne, 2009). These meetings should take place Monday-Wednesday, so Thursday and Friday can be spent reflecting and laying the foundations for an action plan.

In the beginning of Milestone 4, Triadex should continue building its action plan and have it finalized by Friday. This plan should contain aspects such as a timeline with milestones, social media and business strategies, reflection points, and potential points of failure (Slotnik & Schulten, 2012). These should be influenced by customer feedback. The action plan should contain elements of Zimmerman’s (2002) cyclical method and Restructuring Associates, Inc.’s (2008) 6-step problem solving model. The 6-step model is extremely in-depth and would serve Triadex well. However, Zimmerman’s cyclical model incorporates the self- and business-reflection components necessary for long-term success. In developing this plan, Mr. Mesaros and his colleagues should remember to clarify exactly what their goal is, focus on what is relevant, and recognize disruption is a process (Elder & Paul, 2012; Christensen, 2015).

Needless to say, this is no simple feat, and Triadex may find this disheartening. Anthony (2008) states that establishing quick wins to build motivation can help one surmount such situations. One simple way to do so is to increase its social media following. After having two Twitter accounts for over 7 years each, it only has a combined total of 41 followers. Modern Postcard, a similar company, grossed over 2,100 followers in 9 years. Thus, a social media presence is crucial for salesmanship (Onyemah, 2013).

Triadex can increase their following through advertisements and incentives. If current and new customers follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook, they can be entered into a raffle to receive 5% off their next order or 500 free mailers. These low-cost incentives appeal to customers and increase value proposition (Johnson et al, 2008). Triadex can also ask their new partner organizations to tweet that they just partnered with Triadex. Immediately broadcasting this would bring Triadex’s name to a completely different market (Gerber, 2011).

Along the same lines, Triadex could catapult its new image by revamping its current website, specifically the Triadex Cares page. Similar companies’ websites are clearer and easier to navigate, which may influence potential customers. However, very few of these companies give back to the environment. This provides Triadex the opportunity to stand out. Our group believes that having a clear, visible tab dedicated to Triadex Cares would increase its click-through rate, thus increasing its publicity and potential customer base. Successful companies like Mosaic and International Paper have similar setups on their websites, so it may benefit Triadex to do a case study (Anthony, 2008; Slotnik & Schulten, 2012).

Lastly, Triadex can gain momentum by hiring a company to assess and reduce its carbon footprint. As previously stated, these companies can provide Triadex with a sustainability report to advertise on the Triadex Cares page. This will help Triadex see to what extent it is harming the environment, give them the GRIT necessary to continue with these efforts, and develop its innovation self-efficacy (Perkins-Gough, 2013; Gerber, 2011). Furthermore, it may encourage Triadex to implement smaller efforts like air hand dryers.

The success of the tier system requires more than executive involvement, as employee devotion can make or break success (Johnson, 2013). This was a point Dr. Schwartz highlighted in our phone call when he stated, “You need to know how to interact with your coworkers…” It wasn’t until he did so that he was able to lead his company to success. Thus, Triadex must incorporate ways to reward innovative employee behaviors rather than simply rewarding big wins (Anthony, 2008). In doing so, employees may become more committed to the idea, which Duckworth states is imperative in developing GRIT, a characteristic related to high achievement (Perkins-Gough, 2013).

This can be done through company-wide acknowledgements like an end of the week employee highlight email that all workers receive. Such an email would congratulate all employees for their hard work, but showcase two or three individuals that took great steps to foster innovative progress. Recognizing all employees makes them feel appreciated, but specifically highlighting a few outstanding efforts helps promote GRIT through vicarious learning (Perkins-Gough, 2013; Gerber, 2011).

In addition to this, Mr. Mesaros could send personal appreciation notes to employees that he felt fostered innovative progress. In some instances, receiving personalized recognition can be more meaningful than public acknowledgement. As Dr. Berman would say, “it gives them a sense of purpose.” This innovation self-efficacy, fostered through social persuasion, then leads to innovative action and places the employees and Triadex on the path to success (Gerber, 2011).

On a larger scale, Triadex can reward behaviors by having monthly lunches or BBQs to acknowledge all employees. This serves to reward workers for their dedication and celebrates the reduction in waste they have helped Triadex complete, thus inducing social persuasion (Gerber, 2011). It also creates a unique, stress-free atmosphere where they can relax and cross-pollinate. Csikszentmihalyi (2013) points out that it’s in such creative spaces that new and innovative ideas can come to fruition.

This principle helps employees “avoid the sucking sound of the core”, which Anthony (2008) shows is key for innovation to flourish. Our group believes this value can be applied to the office setting as well by having an innovative safe space specifically set away from the CEO’s office. As Anthony (2008) and Csikszentmihalyi (2013) point out, employees in a creative space forget about the business’s goals and focus on developing unique ideas that set the company apart. In such a space, failure is acceptable and encouraged because Slotnik & Schulten (2012) depict that failure helps employees think outside the box, which is what Triadex needs.

As previously discussed, Triadex should appoint a specific employee to head the innovation effort, one that demonstrates curiosity and openness (Csikszentmihalyi, 2013; Gerber, 2011). This will aid innovation efforts in avoiding the sucking of the core as well as help employees understand that progress can be a state of perpetual beta (Satell, 2016). In addition, shifting the focus away from core business ideals and toward the ways Triadex’s innovation efforts can provide competitive advantage will further this concept (Anthony, 2008).

Using Triadex and its issue as a platform for me to develop my innovation skills has helped me look at the world in a different way. Though I do enjoy reading entrepreneurial books, I never considered them truly applicable to my life. This course taught me otherwise. I have found myself applying Costa & Kallick’s (2008) 17 Habits of Mind and many of the Overcoming Failure module’s readings daily. I have even written personal blog posts on lessons I learned. What really impacted me was accepting failure is okay and that sometimes the scariest ventures turn out to be the most fruitful. The Dare to be Crap (Satell, 2016) reading and Richard St. John’s TED Talk (n.d.) resonated with me the most for those reasons, and I think they sum up the course perfectly.

Of course, there is always room for improvement, and I found the final week of Anthony’s (2008) book to be where my weaknesses lie. I need to start leveraging external resources for the sake of progress. I am a busy person with countless responsibilities that I sometimes fall short in simply because I want to manage everything. I need to recognize that I would progress quicker if I delegated tasks. To accomplish this short-term, I will begin by identifying small responsibilities I am comfortable delegating. Long-term, I can anticipate struggle points and plan accordingly. For example, I need help applying to graduate schools, and Dr. Kiefer offered to look over my CV. In accepting her help, I will present a better CV.

I also can become better at innovation by not solely focusing on the sucking sound of my core, especially with regard to graduate school. Everything I presently do is focused on getting into grad school, and I am so absorbed in checking off requirement boxes that I lose sight of what makes me unique. To address this short-term, I will engage in my favorite activities again because it was in those environments that I had my greatest and most successful ideas. Long-term, I can remember to give myself a break from thinking about graduate school. As Csikszentmihalyi (2013) would put it, I need to place myself in a unique and creative environment to decompress and rekindle my innovative spirits.

Lastly, I need to accept that practice makes perfect, and the only way to get better is to make myself uncomfortable and demonstrate GRIT (Anthony, 2008; Duckworth, n.d.). I often write blog posts on this topic, but I still find it hard to incorporate because it’s a lot easier to tell myself that I cannot improve. Yet every time I overcome that mental barrier, I grow. To help me to continue to do this short-term, I will attend more events that push me out of my comfort zone and force me to practice my innovation skills. I will be doing that this Saturday as I attend a psychology summit. Long-term, I will commit to leadership positions and place myself in scenarios that force me to do so as well.

In all of this, I promise to do my best to…realize innovation requires collaboration and self-awareness, understand that life demands failure more than it demands success, recognize my limits, honor my commitments, develop GRIT, and be kind to the body God gave me and my fellow people. I will do this by distributing leadership, always asking questions, observing before acting, learning from failure and getting back up again, reading every day, not over committing, taking time for myself, and treating others as I would like to be treated. This is my Innovator’s Pledge.


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