The idea kill rate

Most organizations aren’t lacking in metrics.

We relentlessly–and sometimes obsessively–measure growth in clients, sales, # of widgets sold, website traffic and the like.  We track all manner of efficiency statistics and productivity measures as well.  Many are useful and actionable.  Some just give us the illusion of control.

Yet how many of us can reliably demonstrate how good we are at letting go of things that no longer serve us?  Can you point to a meaningful list of projects, investments, experiments, initiatives where you can confidently say “we tried that, we did our best work and we failed.  We’re gleaning lessons learned and moving on.”

If you are anything like me, it’s hard to admit defeat, to own up to the reality that what once was a good idea no longer makes sense.  And just as it takes courage to put one’s self out there and expose your idea to the world in the first place, it takes great resolve and vulnerability to kill it.

In my experience, it’s simply not true that innovative organizations or highly successful leaders make fewer mistakes.  They make them faster.  They fail better.

Calculating your idea kill rate can be incredibly illuminating and gets you focused on improving the numerator. In turn, that allows you to unleash resources for a more powerful iteration–or something else entirely.

But if you aren’t happy with the size of the denominator, well, that’s a different problem.

One thought on “The idea kill rate

  1. In my experience, ego’s, too many cooks in the kitchen, personal agendas and variable sets (lack) of knowledge and insight, enable a few to create an environment, where to admit failure is not tolerated. Agility is extremely difficult or not possible in organizations with design/development/experiment by committee. I am not trying to be cynical… ok maybe so… but this is the reality of why new, fresh iterations or moving forward are stymied. No one wants to go out on a limb against the status quo. Group fear. Not worth the risk to ones’s self in corporate America. That is why I am an Entrepreneur.

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