Innovation in the Face of Failure

Ok, long time since my last post. It was a wonderfully busy January which, frankly, took me by surprise. Last January it was so quiet I thought the phone would never ring again. Which is decidedly NOT the case now. I am very grateful.

An acquaintance wrote this Business Week article entitled “Why Victims Can’t Invent Anything.” I loved the article and have been thinking about it a lot. The premise is that innovators see failure as an opportunity and, in fact, failure is the catalyst of innovation. Particularly after such a rough economic climate, this rings true with me.

When the economy started to cool off in 2008 and our clients started cutting back, I was convinced that I was facing a huge opportunity. My competitors usually cut back on sales and marketing in a downturn and I set off to make some gains in this area. I viewed the recession as a great opportunity to grab market share and managed to dramatically increase it. I discovered two very surprising things: First, the recession was much more severe than I initially thought. Second, my company’s infrastructure was not as strong as I thought. We started losing more and more positions to our competitors and the number of jobs we were receiving was exponentially decreasing.

In the beginning I had some trouble keeping my cool let alone be innovative. As soon as I was able to accept the reality – my systems, for both recruiting and placement, were not sufficient- I was able to innovate. For me, accepting that reality, however difficult, was the key to being able to assess and come up with a solution.

This summer we replaced every system we had for more robust solutions – phones, database, payroll, accounting e-mail, the works. Next we combed through our standard operating systems and re-wrote them. Now we are changing the way we attract candidates with a greater focus on optimizing our search engine results and social media. I still have a lot of work to do but it is clear that the changes are making a big impact and I can see a future where we are able to work much faster with much less effort.

All of this is due to adversity. So as glad as I am for an improved economy (and hope it lasts) I am grateful for the hard times that force us to innovate.