Why Netflix, Coke and Dominos Want to Fail More (And Why It's Smart)

November 27, 2017

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is actually encouraging his team to fail more.

Has your boss ever scolded you for not failing?

Probably not. And yet, that’s exactly what Netflix CEO Reed Hastings did earlier this year. He publicly complained that Netflix had produced too many successful shows, as they’ve only had to cancel a few of the in-house series they’ve produced.

“Our hit ratio is way too high right now,” Hastings said at a conference this summer. “I’m always pushing the content team. We have to take more risks.”

His point? Yes, being smart and using data will produce shows that are mostly successful. But, only by accepting more failures, will there be a higher chance of a truly breakout program.

"You have to try more crazy things, because we should have a higher cancel rate overall,” Hastings said.

In other words, Hastings believes you need to fail to succeed. He’s arguing that a fear of failure is limiting his team’s creativity, and thereby their upside.

Other companies that are embracing failure

Netflix isn’t the only company that thinks this way. Here are a few more examples:

  • Coke

In May, James Quincey became the new CEO of Coca-Cola. One of his first messages: fail more.

“If we’re not making mistakes,” he insisted, “we’re not trying hard enough.”

Quincey believes the New Coke fiasco of the 1980s has caused the soft drink giant to play it safe since then. Hence, he’s encouraging his team to stop fearing failure, and start embracing it.

  • Amazon

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has proclaimed he’s “made billions of dollars of failures.” He believes success comes down to making really bold bets, as only a few need to work out to succeed.

“If you’re going to take bold bets, they’re going to be experiments,” Bezos said. “And if they’re experiments, you don’t know ahead of time if they’re going to work. Experiments are by their very nature prone to failure. But a few big successes compensate for dozens and dozens of things that didn’t work.”

  • Domino's

Since he became CEO of the company in 2010, Domino's Pizza’s Patrick Doyle has had nearly unprecedented success. During that time, the stock price has gone from under 15 to now above 175, more than an 11-fold increase over seven years.

A core value Doyle preaches? The importance of failure. In fact, Domino's even ran a marketing campaign entitled Failure is an Option, which detailed how failures have led to the company’s success.

“In order to get better, in order to get ahead, you are going to make mistakes,” Domino’s EVP of Operations Scott Hinsh said in a commercial that was part of the campaign. “We cannot be afraid to fail. It sounds crazy, but it’s who we are.”

How this all applies to you

In all these companies you see the same logic over and over. To build the next big thing, you need to be thinking big. And, a tried-and-true indicator that you are indeed thinking big is that you are failing from time to time.

Of course, you want to be smart and take calculated risks. But just make sure those calculated risks don't become so calculated, they stop being risks at all. You need to push yourself into the unknown, and data can’t help you experiment in the unknown.

The bigger point is to rethink how your organization looks at failure. Rather than seeing it as just a failure, see it as a learning opportunity that brings you one step closer to succeeding. Because the only thing worse than failing is, ironically enough, never failing.

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