I’m going through one of my, seemingly increasingly more, regular quiet periods here. Partly because I am actually busy doing work stuff that doesn’t give me much time to write here.
Not all the work stuff is easy to get to fruition, and over the last few months several small projects that I have had on the go have foundered for a variety of reasons. Getting knock backs is part of the game of course, though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.
But in the last two weeks I’ve attended two really inspirational events, on very different scales and with very different line ups of speakers.
The first was Nesta’s ‘The Innovation Edge‘ conference. Amongst the presenters were Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Bob Geldof. Tim famously invented the world wide web as a small side project around his day job. Bob Geldof, as well as being a former rock star and founder of Band Aid, is a serial entrepreneur.
Two things stuck with me from their talks.
- From Tim: don’t be afraid to experiment and give people space in their jobs to try.
- From Bob: learn to embrace failure it happens more often than success but you cannot succeed if you don’t know what failure feels like.
Now these two guys are at the top of their fields, and vastly experienced. You’d expect world renowned heavy hitters like them to say that. Its easy to agree with them, but a damn sight harder to apply.
Well on Tuesday evening I went along to an event run by consummate networker, the redoubtable Oli Barrett. A different kind of event in every way – smaller and intimate, but equally inspirational. The format was three excellent speakers followed by some speed-networking (Oli claims to have introduced this concept to the UK, but I won’t hold it against him).
Girl who knows everyone Emma Mulqueeny describes the speakers and their pitches much better than I could. But two of them, Caspar Berry and Shed Simove, both talked about the value of embracing failure and keeping going if you want to succeed.
Takeaways that I picked up:
- From Caspar: Understanding and embracing risk is good. Don’t try to mitigate but meet it full on. Success is all about luck so the more times you fail, and the more you risk, the greater the more reward when you do hit gold.
- From Shed: Just keep going, generate ideas and making them happen. Most will fail, only few will be successful. But the failures demonstrate to others an ability to make things happen and see them through, rather than just giving up.
How can we apply this to our work on government digital stuff?
At the moment, despite increasing interest, all this experimental social media stuff is difficult to sell to decision makers and budget holders. Its tricky to demonstrate the value to the business, what the return might be, the cost of investing in time and skills. Its all just difficult.
If you find yourself in this position, two words – keep trying.
One of those ideas is going to be a winner. But if you give up at the first hurdle, you’ll never know which idea.
If you are working on projects that you ar struggling with, please share your experiences – the failures as well as the successes – with your peers and colleagues across government. We all want, and need, to learn from each others epxeriences. To take the lessons and try and improve upon them next time. Perhaps we can all help each other.