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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Learning from Failure - The Secret Sauce of Silicon Valley

What's the secret sauce of Silicon Valley? Failure, reports Tina Seelig, Executive Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program.

To develop more successes, she urges, entrepreneurs have got to take a risk, and this is the notion behind every deal in the entire ecosystem. Venture capitalists fund risk and, by association, failure, in order to find the "hits" in the haystack. Failure is a perfectly acceptable part of the entrepreneurial process, provided that the smart entrepreneur learns from their errors along the way.

There are some lessons for leaders in what Tina has to say:


The Power of Vision

'The first step toward creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it. Vision will ignite the fire of passion that fuels our commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve excellence. Only vision allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action. Vision has no boundaries and knows no limits. Our vision is what we become in life.'  Tony Dungy, former coach of Super Bowl XLI winners, the Indianapolis Colts

How Leaders Should Communicate in Difficult Times

1. Be more visible than you’ve ever been

Behaviour is as important as message: employees observe their leaders and take their cues from how their leaders are behaving.

2. Tell it like it is

Tell the truth, and tell it fast. Get the bad news out there, and try and avoid drip-feeding.

3. Be clear

If you have clarity and strength of purpose, people will follow. Uniting behind a common cause raises spirits and makes people feel anything is possible.

4. Stick to your guns

Know your long-term strategic plan and stand by it. Don’t be panicked into sudden measure or announcements.

5. Be tough

Well-run businesses become more efficient; more objective about poor performance, more selective about costs, more prudent in decision-making.

6. Use confidence to create confidence

Show that you are in control, and not simply at the mercy of events. Get people engaged, and use their skills to help you. Optimism is vital.

7. Focus on opportunities

Leadership development is about accumulating experience, and times of crisis deliver new experiences by the truck-load.

8. Balance youth and age

A fresh approach is a great asset, but in tough times, so is sector knowledge – it’s the best way of assessing risk. People with experience have a huge coaching role to play.

9. Beware of creating a talent gap

If you don’t develop your human resource, you don’t have a future. Now is the time to stimulate innovation and creativity.

10. Learn the importance of unknowns

There’s a tendency to focus on what we understand, and ignore what we don’t. Seismic changes demand us to be less linear, to create a culture of wider thinking.