What do you do when you win? You celebrate.
But what do you do when you lose? You sulk (OK, just a little bit), and then you pick yourself up and analyze what went wrong so you can prevent it from happening next time.
Learning from failure can lead to innovation. But what if your company can’t afford to make big mistakes? What if the only mistakes you have space for are the tiny ones because the big ones will force your business to go down?
Here’s the story of one organization that couldn’t afford to fail on a big scale. So its leaders formed processes unlike any in the world—which helped them not only survive but thrive in a harsh environment.
Get obsessed with the why behind your results.
In February 2018, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet was shot down by enemy forces. That hadn’t happened since 1982.
Former elite military unit officer Inbal Arieli wrote about it in Forbes, adding:
“It has become clear to me how the mindset of elite military units can be successfully applied to growth companies … Each and every [Israeli Air Force] activity, each and every maneuver, in training or combat is debriefed in the same manner. Each squadron has a morning briefing setting the goals for the day, and a debriefing every evening, mapping the lessons of that day.”
The IAF holds debriefs after wins and losses. So when they win, they don’t go right out and celebrate—they first have a debriefing session where they treat each action as a lab experiment and see what can be done better next time.
They focus on facts.
Everyone shows unrestrained candor in giving and receiving feedback. The point isn’t to criticize; the point is to understand why something happened and what should be done differently next time.
What lesson can business leaders take from this?
Examine what led to your victories as well as your losses.
Following a win, ask yourself: Why did we win? Was it great execution or just dumb luck? What can we do better next time?
Too many companies get complacent after victories—and before long, that complacency results in losses. Just look at Blockbuster.
A big part of Blockbuster’s business model was making money by charging late fees. Did its execs really think penalizing customers was a solid long-term strategy? Did they examine the why behind their success? Perhaps if they had analyzed their victories they’d see they were achieved through bad process. And then maybe they could have changed course and disrupted the industry with a subscription model like Netflix did.
Longevity is attained by creating flexibility and the ability to adapt to change. That’s a talent optimization tenet.
So get obsessed with the why behind your results. Celebrate wins but also analyze what led you to that victory. If it was good process and good execution that got you there, great. But if not, do better next time because dumb luck only lasts so long.
Making time to debrief after losses and wins is tough, but that’s what separates the good companies from the best ones.
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