Embracing Intelligent Failures: Lessons in Risk Management from European Manufacturing
December 19, 2023
In an article on the FCPA blog, Richard Bistrong, CEO of Frontline Anti-Bribery, visited three different manufacturing facilities in Europe including aircraft, pharmaceuticals, and watches. He discovered that all three facilities shared a common trait – the teams at each site exhibited a passion for their work and performed their tasks with precision. Bistrong observed the meticulous process of fusing a wing to a fuselage and also witnessed the delicate hand painting of a watch’s face. He recognized that all three organizations had a shared commitment to excellence and embraced a culture of speaking up and embracing failure.
Drawing parallels with insights from Amy Edmondson’s book “The Fearless Organization” and her recent release, “Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well,” the author emphasizes the importance of fostering an environment where intelligent failures are not only encouraged but celebrated. The factories visited allocate specific times for personnel to share improvement suggestions, including detailing mistakes made and highlighting the positive impact of quick rectification.
The concept of “intelligent failures” is a mindset that considers failures as opportunities for learning and generating valuable knowledge. This mindset is not limited to manufacturing environments and proposes applying a “safety first” mentality to ethics and compliance programs.
According to Bistrong, it is essential to instill a sense of pride, passion, and purpose throughout the entire workforce. Reflecting on Edmondson’s work, the article suggests that acknowledging and learning from failures can lead to a fulfilling life marked by continuous learning. Despite the common inclination to hide failures, the author advocates for organizations to embrace them constructively and challenge the conventional view of ethics and compliance. The article suggests that celebrating failure can be an integral part of organizational growth and development.
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