Rethinking Failure: Finding the Opportunities in Our Challenges #DBW14

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Dominique Raccah, the owner and CEO of Sourcebooks, believes that "learning from failure is mission critical". She spends real effort training her team to understand what pivots mean, how they occur, and how the organization grows forward together because she is sure those understandings are a key to ultimate success. Perhaps because she is both owner and CEO, she can be more comfortable about recognizing a failure for what it is than could somebody running somebody else's company. The experiences Dominique will describe won't sound unfamiliar to anybody in any company which is trying new things all the time but we expect her lessons about how companies can progress through failure might inspire some new thoughts for others about how to handle it when it arises.

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  • Books fail. We’re used to it. It’s kind of a constant in our business. We have lots of reasons. We have little data. And we view it uncontrollable. For that reason…
  • We’re launching so many books…that we almost expect it. And there’s this constant pull forward to the next title so we don’t really ahave a chance to assess what happened, gatehr data, review it. So what do we mostly do…we ignore it.
  • When that happens, you might see Blame, embarrassment, we don’t talk about it. Shameful.
  • What we discovered was that while people are very happy to have their poetry read, they are unlikely to read and respond to other people’s poetry. Eveyrone wanted to be the poet, no on wanted to be the reader. A lesson that has proven useful when we were building other verticals.
  • Can be the “duh” moment or an “aha” moment
  • This was the most powerful lesson of 2008. you remember 2008. This was probably the turning point for my evolution as a CEO and for our organization. It was the start of the NEW Sourcebooks.
  • Monthly company meeting. We report the results of the compnay, whether they be good or bad.
  • Here are some other opportunities that failure presents.
  • Others publish their failures for the world to see.  Engineers Without Borders Canada, which creates engineering solutions to international development problems, publishes a “failure report” every year alongside its annual report.  “I only let the best failures into the report,” said Ashley Good, its editor. The examples that are published, she said, show people who are “taking risks to be innovative.”Henry Ford said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” And certainly ford motor has shown us that route. 
  • This is one of the common opportunities in failure.
  • Last year we got into, expanded and got out of the selling schools buiness. As always, all our folks got redeployed to other parts of the organization because stopping doing something allows you to start doing something else.
  • This is one of the common opportunities in failure.
  • I tried 4 other versions of put me in the story before the one that you’re seeing now. Each hit a different kind of deadend. NONe of those deadends were about the customer, the user. The user loved the idea. I just kept hitting tech hurdles. But each time the response to the conept was great. I got it. This is a big idea.
  • So failure…it has it’s uses.
  • This is where we have to go.. It’s how we need to think and help our people to think. And I can tell you that we’re not doing this 100% at sourcebooks. And it’s where we have to go.
  • Rethinking Failure: Finding the Opportunities in Our Challenges #DBW14

    1. 1. Rethinking Failure: Finding The Opportunities In Our Challenges Digital Book World, January 2014 Dominique Raccah Sourcebooks, Inc.
    2. 2. #DBW14
    3. 3. failure in book publishing
    4. 4. 2 kinds of failure in book publishing
    5. 5. Every day in America 3,500 books are published* and only a handful will be considered successful by any criteria *Bowker
    6. 6. 2 Kinds of Failure in Book Publishing 1. Books fail
    7. 7. How We Respond to Failure in Book Publishing 1. Books fail IGNORE
    8. 8. 2 Kinds of Failure in Book Publishing 1. Books fail 2. Corporate experiment or expansion fails
    9. 9. 2 Kinds of Failure in Book Publishing 2. Corporate experiment or expansion fails
    10. 10. “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” strategy
    11. 11. today opportunity for a better strategy
    12. 12. our goal has to be to increase the probability that a book, a series or a program will be successful
    13. 13. In order to do that we need to understand why the successful ones succeed and the failures fail
    14. 14. Need better data, better processes, and more transparency around every step in the publishing process
    15. 15. And what’s critically important is that we rethink our whole view on FAILURE
    16. 16. Here’s why…
    17. 17. “You don’t get better if you win all the time. You look at yourself more if you lose.” - Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets
    18. 18. “If you lead a team, a business unit or a company, giving yourself and your team permission to fail may result in a breakthrough innovation that changes the direction of your organization.” - TechRepublic The Power of Failing
    19. 19. some of my favorite uses for failure
    20. 20. My Favorite Uses For Failure Failure as an instant of discovery
    21. 21. What we learned from Poetry Speaks
    22. 22. My Favorite Uses For Failure Failure as a moment of inspiration Duh! Aha!
    23. 23. My Favorite Uses For Failure Failure as an opportunity to come together, to create and strive together
    24. 24. January 2009 Not Business As Usual Sourcebooks Company Update ~•~
    25. 25. My Favorite Uses For Failure Failure as a recommitment to discipline and process
    26. 26. My Favorite Uses For Failure Failure as an opportunity to celebrate, model and teach
    27. 27. My Favorite Uses For Failure Failure as a means of unleashing creativity and play
    28. 28. My Favorite Uses For Failure Failure as the opportunity to STOP doing something
    29. 29. EDU pivot all about creating and expanding opportunities for our authors (and our team) around study aids books and
    30. 30. My Favorite Uses For Failure Failure as the opportunity to STOP doing something… stopping doing something allows you to start doing something else
    31. 31. My Favorite Uses For Failure Failure as an opportunity for inquiry, an opportunity to learn something else…
    32. 32. Agile Publishing Model – 3 goals 1. More efficient (successful product development faster) 2. Better author experience 3. More timely/updated books
    33. 33. My Favorite Uses For Failure Agile publishing this title led to agile as a way of thinking in our organization…and that impacted everything.
    34. 34. My Favorite Uses For Failure Sometimes failure signals a bigger opportunity
    35. 35. Put Me In The Story We tried 4 other versions of Put Me In The Story before this one…
    36. 36. 9 of My Favorite Uses For Failure 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Failure as an instant of discovery Failure as a moment of inspiration Failure as an opportunity to come Failure as a recommitment to discipline and process Failure as an opportunity to celebrate, model and teach Failure as a means of unleashing creativity and play Failure as the opportunity to STOP doing something Failure as an opportunity for inquiry
    37. 37. Today, we have a new model. An experimental model, that’s data-centric, creative and exciting.
    38. 38. The Lean Startup Model
    39. 39. this experimental model has worked for us
    40. 40. In this model: failure is an event. It’s about the facts. It’s not about you.
    41. 41. “Bezos didn’t take the defeat personally. He later cast the mistake as the first step in a series of important experiments to bring third-party sellers onto Amazon.” Brad Stone The Everything Store talking about Amazon Auctions
    42. 42. Fear of failure can stop you from playing your best game
    43. 43. Failure actually is the promise of getting it right tomorrow
    44. 44. “A failure-free environment is an innovation-free zone” - TechRepublic The Power of Failing
    45. 45. I hope this is the last time we talk about failure.
    46. 46. It’s about experiments and results…
    47. 47. Looking forward to discussing our experiments and results together! Dominique Raccah Publisher and CEO, Sourcebooks Twitter: @draccah

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