There have been several failures in technology over the years. A TIME magazine article outlining failures mentions Netscape, Napster, and Blackberry as some of the technology companies that couldn’t pivot to better serve their target market. As a result, many lost millions for investors and were forced into bankruptcy or shut down.
“Missteps along the way don’t mean total failure, as long as you’re willing to learn from them and improve.”
Failure doesn’t befall every tech company. Many may stumble but continue to grow in value and offerings. The best tech leaders today are constantly evaluating their focus, values, and culture to move forward.
Focus on the Future
Hubris has no place in a leader’s closet. Many tech companies scale quickly, and as a result, think they are unstoppable. Game development company Zynga is a perfect example of this. In their heyday, their main games, FarmVille and CityVille, had almost 84 million monthly users at their peaks in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
But their downfall was swift. They went public on the stock market and didn’t anticipate two things: Facebook’s annoyance at their “game spam” which annoyed non-gaming Facebook users, and the fast adoption of mobile to access the internet over using a desktop.
Because they weren’t anticipating a transition to mobile, they didn’t have game apps or mobile play options optimized for users. As a result, stocks and user numbers plummeted. Zynga could have done several things differently, but their biggest problem was a lack of predicting users’ future needs and wants.
Only thinking about current successes or company health sets it up for failure. A successful tech company must always be creating new ways to solve problems, push their product further, and be agile enough to change as needed.
Combat the Curse of Knowledge
In the tech industry, many of us are faced with the curse of knowledge, which is a cognitive bias that means we are too entrenched in our own work. Because we know everything about our products, we are faced with the issue of not knowing what will be confusing to our customers.
It’s also easy to get defensive or annoyed when customers complain about an issue. Because we are working on it every day, we often become too close to our own products. This can lead to the blindness of not seeing common UX or usability issues that irritate users.
To combat this issue, always be open to customer feedback, even if it seems out of left field. Tackle problems from the perspective of the customers actually using the products, not the people that are working on them.
Structure Businesses Differently
The workplace that we see in AMC’s Mad Men is firmly in the past, yet some companies still believe in a rigid 8-5 workday, little vacation, and no emphasis on how work can contribute to employees’ sense of self and well-being. A great tech leader knows this does not foster anyone’s best work.
Executives and owners are beginning to prioritize employee health and happiness, including adding benefits like onsite meetups for remote teams, updated technology, and flexibility of working hours. When an employee knows their company values them as an individual and cares about their happiness, they are less likely to leave, more engaged in their work, and believe in the company purpose.
Have a Transparent Workplace
Having a transparent workplace combats fear and misinformation that plagues many large-scale organizations.
Fast, rapid growth and change means a lot of uncertainty amongst employees (and sometimes customers) who aren’t sure where the company is going next. Constructive feedback, as well as clear communication about company goals and values, is the best way to keep employees engaged and customers loyal.
Finally, Make Inclusivity a Priority
No matter a person’s role in a company, their contribution can be great. The best leaders look for opportunities to hire employees from different backgrounds, as this leads to a multi-faceted approach to problem-solving and product development.
Everyone should believe that their voice is valued– whether they are an intern or a CTO. When we create a working environment that is always open to new ideas and suggestions, we foster creativity and independent thinking: two of the biggest contributing factors of success.
We can’t always control what we fail at, but we can control our reaction to it. By embracing more transparency, trust, and openness, we create the building blocks for our company to succeed.