Failure is an inevitable byproduct of any attempt to innovate and try something new. Contrary to many leader’s perfectionist impulses, taking the stigma out of it is important to foster innovation at every level, from the tiny changes to disruptive ones. Needless to say, creating a company culture where failure is acceptable is a step forward into an agile and inclusive workforce.
Now, how do leaders create a culture of sharing that doesn’t look down on failure? Karam Maholthra, Partner and Global VP SHAREit Group, proposes the answer for HR in Asia. Let’s find out!
Question: Mr. Karam, many believe that failure is an inevitable part of success. But while success is always celebrated, why don’t many embrace failure, too?
Answer: It is true that failure is a stepping stone to success, in fact, failure is what gets you there. As an example, when you are learning to surf, you will give it a lot of trials, and practice sessions before you get it right and finally ride a wave.
On or off the surfboard, you will not always get it right on the first go. Sometimes you must do a lot of trial and error before achieving a result that works. The act of experimentation breeds learning that leads to success.
Question: How is ‘accepting failure’ incorporated into SHAREit’s company culture? Is there any story behind this extraordinary value?
Answer: At SHAREit we try to create an atmosphere that allows mistakes because that is how one understands, how not to do something. The freedom to take risks can catapult the innovation quotient of an organisation, leading to faster growth especially if you are a technology-centric company like us.
SHAREit is one of the fastest-growing media publishers in the world, and this accelerated growth has been possible due to a culture of taking risks. We encourage employees to believe in an idea, evaluate its market opportunity and do what needs to be done without fearing the outcome.
Our R&D teams are constantly iterating the SHAREit app, a file sharing and content streaming application, to make it more friendly for the users. There have been a lot of ideas that looked great on the screen and because of their novelty factor, but when implemented they did not amass popularity from the users. SHAREit now allows users to transfer files without mobile data at a fast speed, but before the app became what it is today, our innovation teams have tried and tested different versions.
Question: Learning from your experience, what’s the best way to take the stigma out of ‘failure’ and how does it fuel innovations?
Answer: Do not look down on failure. Any breakthrough work depends on it. Instead, champion risk-taking and boldness. This approach needs to trickle down from the leaders to all within the organisation, till the intern.
As a company, being okay with failure doesn’t necessarily mean people will. It’s often quite the contrary. Imagine the freedom to perform when there is no one breathing down your neck, or you don’t fear you will lose out on that next big promotion only because you took one wrong call. Such freedom breeds innovation.
You must be willing to hear a hundred bad ideas in order to get a good one. If you are not open to hearing bad ideas, only ideas that are tried and tested, and bland will be shown to you.
Question: In your opinion, what’s the biggest reason behind employees’ hesitation to speak up about their ideas? And what can employers do to address this?
Answer: The most common question on the minds of those who choose not to speak an idea is, ‘What if I am wrong?’. This fear or hesitation has killed many ideas even before they could make their way out of human minds.
Companies should give their employees permission to fail. It is liberating. For a company to embrace failure, there need to be systems, behaviours, and structures in place to make room for flops. For instance, adding a KPI that encourages employees to try new things or incentivizes risk-taking may be one of the ways.
But as a leader, you should be clear about what you are trying to achieve as you seek to create a culture of good failures.
Question: Singapore firms plan to focus on their people and technology to speed up recovery from the crisis, according to a survey. Do you think this trend will affect organizational culture?
Answer: COVID-19 has certainly proved as a gamechanger for companies, be it their operations, culture, or processes. A culture of innovation is a business imperative in this environment and companies are realising that. 80% of Singapore business decision-makers say innovation is a ‘must’, not just good-to-have, as they see the ability to innovate as vital to performance and resilience, according to this Microsoft-IDC study.
In this new world order, companies will operate with digitalisation at its core, freedom and flexibility will take precedence, and empathy is expected to increase.
Question: With many organizations going remote, what model of work is best suited for thriving companies like SHAREit?
Answer: At SHAREit, we see a hybrid model of work, best suited for the employees as they can choose depending on their convenience. Due to covid, we have seen that while there are those who might prefer to work from home, there are employees who want to come to work from the office to skip distractions at home. As an employee-centric company, we carefully hear any challenges faced by our employees. Flexibility isn’t just about location, it’s about a series of arrangements to boost productivity while fostering trust within teams as they work remotely. This is how the best innovations and ideas in a company come about.
Question: Lastly, what are initiatives your company has been driving to enhance employee engagement while promoting diversity, especially during WFH settings?
Answer: At SHAREit, we endeavour to protect our employees’ mental health, as working in isolation while managing other responsibilities requires special attention from all of us and can be draining. The mental health impact of the work situation in the new normal is on top of the mind of the leadership at SHAREit which is why we try to ensure we listen to our employees and encourage work-life balance. We recently did mental fitness workshops for employees across Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Middle East, and India. These include sessions on happiness hacks, thinking hacks to decrease stress, mindfulness for enhanced focus, amongst others.
Inclusion, flexibility and a culture of sharing are in our company’s DNA. As an inclusive employer, the SHAREit Group employs talented and driven individuals, who are working on building on our global user base of 2.4 billion even further. We value their contribution to the group’s global business network that reaches up to 150 countries, in 45 different languages.
Karam Malhotra is the Partner, Global VP at the SHAREit Group, a global internet technology company with the vision to ‘make digital content equally accessible by everyone’. Its diversified suite of applications, including the hero app SHAREit, a file-sharing, gaming, and content streaming platform, has been installed by nearly 2.4 billion users worldwide. Based in Singapore, he helms the global sales team, formulates strategy, and builds the business ecosystem for SHAREit across the globe.
A graduate of Kellogg School of Management, Karam has worked at McKinsey London, and is a passionate entrepreneur, having co-founded two businesses – FastFilmz, a mobile entertainment platform, and Greatest Common Factor, an ed-tech company.
Connect with him on LinkedIn.
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