Using Virtual Failure to Help Build Success

by Paul Sloane

Using Virtual Failure to Help Build SuccessI heard this story from creative thinking expert Jurgen Wolff. Steve Loranger, CEO of ITT Industries, shared this technique with Business 2.0: ”If you’re working on an important contract, a ‘must-win’ program, give your team a much shorter deadline than actually exists. Afterward you tell your team, ‘I just got a phone call from the buyer today and he told us that we lost – he didn’t tell us why.’ You ask them why they think you lost. You’ll be amazed at how they come up with things that they hadn’t thought about before…as soon as you capture what your team is guessing, you use those points to rework your proposal.”

You might consider this idea to be somewhat underhand but it does seem to be very lateral and it might be highly effective in improving your bid. It works on the basis that after a failure we can critically and constructively examine what went wrong. You can adapt this idea and apply it to any project even if you’re working on it on your own. Imagine the project is done and released to the target audience. Now imagine that this group or person turns it down. Why might that happen? What features might he or she want that aren’t there? Make notes of the ideas that occur to you and use them to strengthen your project. Anticipate all the ways in which you could fail and then mitigate or eliminate them.

Don’t miss an article – Subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Continuous Innovation group!


Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader published by Kogan-Page.

No comments

  1. Paul,

    I too think this is a great idea.

    Looking at the whole proposal/selling landscape I feel that any technique that ‘stirs up’ the bidding team to think in a more origin way about the potential client and their needs can help.

    In the current climate, bidding teams can feel quite tired of rejections – because competitors are undercutting them on all sides. At such times the team may slide into behaviours that means they are just ‘churning out’ what they have done before, trancelike and in an uninspired fashion.

    However, as we know, it is the proposal that has been written with ‘fire in the belly’ that is going to inspire the potential client.

    We sometimes role play bidding teams and potential client teams so that everyone gets ‘fresh eyes’ on the proposal.

Leave a Reply