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How to Allow Room for Failure and Create a Successful Work Environment Creating a space where people are willing to share ideas doesn't just innovate — it invites better wellness, too

By Rob Cecil Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Some of the world's most famous and astounding success stories started as failures. Most people think of Steve Jobs as the brilliant mind behind Apple. But what many people don't know is that, before all of the fame and fortune, he was fired from a company that he himself created. That moment in time was pivotal in shaping his future success. He drew new strength from the setback and developed a radically different approach for his future business plans. That failure has now become a company valued at over two trillion dollars.

While not all of us can turn a failure into a multi-trillion-dollar business, we can learn some valuable lessons in the process. This story is evidence that, with the right attitude, failure can serve as a powerful springboard toward success. But the first step in that process is changing your mindset.

Fear of failure stifles innovation

Perfection is unachievable. The reality is that there will be very little innovation in an environment where you're constantly searching for perfection; it's an ideal that will never be achieved. Instead of focusing on eliminating mistakes, leaders should set high but realistic standards. Once leaders renounce the ever-present aim for flawlessness, they open the door to innovation. When your employees are too fearful of falling under the bar you set, they won't dare to step outside the box you build. In the worst-case scenario, this may even cause employees to leave your organization in search of a more creative outlet.

Instead of trying to achieve the unachievable, start building a successful environment by attracting the right people. Know and accept that your team will make mistakes, but believe in pushing for ideas and growth, both personally and as an organization. When everyone adopts this philosophy of innovation, you create a strong foundation based on development. That shared value encourages everyone to support and uplift each other's ideas.

When your team proposes new ideas, look beneath the surface. It's easy to fall victim to complacency and get comfortably set in our ways, but in reality, you want your team to challenge ideas. At Alair, many of our concepts and workflows were initially ideas that, at the time, didn't seem that big. However, after thoroughly considering the proposals, they ultimately resulted in breakthroughs that optimized processes for hundreds of people.

Related: 7 Ways Companies Can Harness Failure to Drive Success

Genuine commitment counts

While innovation requires a commitment to new ideas, it also requires a commitment to openly communicate what you're working on. People tend to keep their concepts or experiments private if they don't feel comfortable approaching each other and sharing their ideas. Without this type of trusting environment, you'll end up with secret testing kitchens around your organization, and those hidden experiments can quickly turn into fires that the company has to put out. Encouraging and supporting people to come forward with new ideas or concepts can eliminate this secret testing.

When you're genuinely committed to fostering an innovative environment in which it is safe to fail, people will naturally come forward with new ideas. For innovation to occur, we have to create a safe space for teams to pilot their ideas, and when those concepts pan out, they can be shared with the rest of the team. But the reality is that not all of those ideas will work out, so we need to support the fail. In doing so, you're building a safe work environment where people know it's okay (and encouraged) to bring these new ideas forward, even if they don't always work.

When you're building a business trying to accomplish feats like never before, you have to embrace a culture of free-flowing innovation. In the face of challenging control elements, like predicting trends or determining when to bring something to market, encouraging innovative ideas from your team can streamline the ideation process. Without these ideas, you'll end up being leapfrogged by a competitor willing to brainstorm new ideas, think outside the box, and ultimately take the risk.

Related: The Smartest People in The Room Often Overlook This Critical Attribute to Success

Celebrate the fail

While establishing a line of open communication is an invaluable first step, you'll still need to identify and address ideas that aren't feasible. However, there are ways to phrase these so-called "failures" as a win. It's important to celebrate the failures by acknowledging that your team was brave enough to take a swing at things, even if they don't always work. Reward the courage to come forward with innovative ideas and identify lessons that can be learned from failure. Acknowledge your team's creative efforts and let them know that, even though this particular idea didn't pan out, you're still excited to review future considerations.

We rely on weekly roundtable discussions, to be honest about what's working and what's not. These conversations are relaxed and judgment-free, so our team can feel comfortable sharing their concerns.

One theme we discuss is having the right people in the right seats. We've had regional partners admit they don't feel fulfilled in their managerial roles. Through open conversation, we'll help them find a role in their company where they can be more hands-on in building homes. Sometimes, it's about guiding stellar individuals to the roles where they can provide the most value for the team.

Celebrating the failure also entails taking an honest look at yourself. I used to own a software company that made the mistake of rolling out a new product without asking for peer and user input. The project was a half-a-million-dollar failure, and for a small company, it almost sunk us. But that failure was the reason I now understand the importance of peer groups actively involved in reviewing and analyzing new software before being implemented.

By acknowledging the failure, identifying learning points, and applying those lessons to future decisions, you're ensuring you never make the same mistake again, allowing you to effectively transform any failure into a win.

Related: Seeing Failure As An Opportunity To Learn From (And Leapfrog Into Success)

Welcoming failure delivers far more than great ideas

Perhaps more than anything, the modern workforce is eager to find roles that provide a sense of meaning and purpose. Being able to contribute ideas ensures that people feel heard and recognized as valuable assets to the team, regardless of their position. That sense of purpose and belonging ties directly to personal and professional wellness.

When you think about fostering an innovative environment, remember that you're not just building an environment that yields new, creative solutions. You're opening the door for improved collaboration and ingenuity. Before you know it, one of the ideas that comes through may be the next trillion-dollar innovation.

Rob Cecil

President and Chief Development Officer

Rob Cecil is the President and Chief Development Officer at Alair Homes, an award-winning custom home build and renovation company. As the largest and fastest-growing construction franchise in North America, Alair brings together the most qualified builders to help homeowners live better.

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