PASA Comment – Innovation and Fear of Failure


Author: Nigel Wardropper

I recently read a fantastic article on Linkedin entitled the “The high cost of failing to fail” by a lady called Lia DiBello that immediately resonated in relation to the world in which we operate.

Firstly it brought to mind a conversation I had the previous week with Anna Palairet, Head of Procurement at Air New Zealand, where we were discussing innovation. Anna explained to me that senior management at Air New Zealand recognised that in order to be truly innovative they had to build a culture in which failure was accepted or even applauded, rather than feared.  Without this nobody would have the confidence to try something different. The procurement team at Air New Zealand have in recent years driven some very innovative projects, delivering great outcomes for customers and the business. Anna will be sharing some of the work she and her team have done at the 3rd Annual PASA Premier ConfeX in October.

The second thought that struck me was as Lia explained how controlled failure prevents catastrophes.  Fear of catastrophic failure and general risk aversion is what usually makes innovation difficult, particularly in large organisations.  Yet most organisations recognize that to survive or thrive in the rapidly changing world in which we all now operate, becoming more innovative, flexible and agile is essential.  Okay, all fairly obvious, but how does this relate to the world of PASA?

We often talk about how conferences are a great way to uncover new ideas, to benchmark how we are performing and to network with our peers. But as I thought about this in relation to Lia’s arguments about how to avoid catastrophic failures, it struck me that the value to be drawn from conference attendance often relates directly to this. Conferences expose attendees to others experiences, both successes and failures. This may be through presentations or through informal discussions with peers or suppliers. By hearing what others have done, attendees are better positioned to develop the kinds of questions they need to ask themselves when attempting something new or innovative. Effectively it can fast-track much of the trial and error that Lia describes as being essential to our learning and ‘de-risk’ new initiatives that we might be embarking on.

Try this argument next time you are trying to justify to yourself or your senior management why you should attend a particular conference.

About Author

Procurement and Supply Australasia (PASA) is the leading provider of information and education to procurement and supply professionals throughout Australia and New Zealand. PASA supports the largest community of engaged procurement stakeholders in the region, through its renowned series of events, publications, awards, plus various community and network building activities. PASA is a trading name of BTTB Marketing, for many years recognised as the leading producer of conferences and events for the procurement profession in Australia and New Zealand. Whether producing under the BTTB, CIPSA Conferences or now PASA brands over the last ten years, our events have consistently led the market in terms of both educational and networking opportunities.

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