Vistage International, based out of San Diego, is an organization that brings ‘C level’ executives together for monthly meetings to network with centers of influence (COIs) and problem solve. Participants can be entrepreneurs, professional service providers, or corporate leaders from various industries.
One person per meeting brings forth a critical business issue that they are struggling with; taking the risk to admit failure in front of an audience is challenging, but the risk is worth the reward. At the meeting, they receive feedback and brainstorm practical solutions. Vistage members also get the benefit of a one-on-one meeting with the group chairman to discuss a specific problem they may be facing. Issues include:
- Succession planning
- When to expand their employee base
- Acquiring more office space
- When to invest in certain marketing programs
It was at an Innovation Summit in New York that I met Jonathan Rosen, a seasoned CEO and entrepreneur, who is bringing a Vistage chapter to the Westchester area. There were a number of interesting presenters at the summit, including Howard Behar, former President of Starbucks Coffee; Behar talked about how Starbucks came up with a product that ultimately failed – a type of bottled coffee. Evidently, they had the perfect packaging, but the consumer just wasn’t interested. However, this experience became the basis for subsequently launching Frappuccino, which is now a multi-billion dollar product line.
Behar went on to talk about how Starbucks celebrated its failure, because “you have to be willing to fail in order to succeed.” A person who is concerned that something will not work will not move to the next level. Apple tried many products that failed – the Newton was an early version of the iPad.
“Innovation is failing until you find a way to succeed.”
Seth Godin, founder of Squidoo, best-selling author, entrepreneur and blogger, also presented at the summit. He talked about how innovation is about breaking the mold – being willing to do things differently. When companies build average products, they are ultimately going to be eclipsed by something better. He reinforced the concept that you must be willing to be out on the leading edge of new technology in order to succeed.
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to be able to appreciate the importance of pushing the envelope, even if it doesn’t feel like a success. What about you? When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone. Was it rewarding?