Trial and Error – Weekend Reflections for Leaders

Trial and Error:

Over the last several weeks, we have been sharing some concepts for leaders to better understand as they consider making a career transition from a large multi-national company to building the next chapter of their career in a smaller, early-stage business. The forward edge of innovation happens in the early-stage across all industries. Large companies have transferred massive amounts of resources from internal R&D functions to business development efforts focused on acquisitions and licensing deals as the primary means for remaining competitive in a global marketplace that continues to accelerate innovation outside of the 4 walls of large corporations.

Leaders who have built an effective set of skills while working for a large company are needed in the early-stage to help bring innovations forward in the market. We hear from leaders everyday who are energized by leveraging their skills and experiences to create their own unique path to a fulfilling professional journey in the early stage. In addition, the risk of all of us being “Amazoned” in the not-too-distant future is real. Being on the forward edge of innovation in the early-stage is one way to stay ahead of the threat of becoming extinct as marketplaces become more efficient in serving customers.

The focus for today’s topic is on helping leaders appreciate the willingness to take risks, embrace failure and the “learn as you go” mentality of today’s early-stage companies. This trial-and-error mindset is dramatically different than a large company leadership mindset that has little tolerance for new methods.

In large companies, the risk to the current model (e.g., near term cash flow and fixed investments) are too high for big mistakes. In addition, most leaders from large companies have seen over time that mistakes are viewed as career ending and painful as opposed to opportunities to learn and grow. The “play the game, play it safe” mindset helps everyone sleep well for another performance period regardless of how urgently marketplace changes are emerging.

In the early-stage world, the view is fundamentally different. A critical component of success is that you take risks and often fail. The learnings gained are applied quickly and effectively to achieve the next level of growth. The team dusts themselves off, does an autopsy without blame, and climbs back into the ring.

Even though the learnings gained with this mindset are helpful to leaders in moving things forward, the reality is that sometimes mistakes in the early-stage can result in painful outcomes like a complete loss of investor capital, bankruptcy, litigation, etc. These are not the nice and clean “learnings” that we often hear from leadership gurus pontificating on the benefits of learning and growing from mistakes and failures. In the early-stage, we are talking about a real adult dose of learning that can cause real pain.

However, even with these painful lessons, the truth remains that failure and mistakes bring about great learnings.

Strong leadership is needed in the early-stage marketplace and leaders from large companies have the skills and experience to create great value at the forward edge of innovation. As we look to build and strengthen our leadership over a long-term career journey, the early-stage market is fertile ground to learn, grow, and bring world-leading innovation to the market.

How can I help you today? My mobile is 269-370-9275 and my email is

Please download some FREE resources at I hope you find them helpful in your journey.

Also, for those leaders in healthcare, the opportunity to be at the forefront of creating and scaling life-changing innovation resides in the early stage. This sector needs strong leaders like yourself to drive innovation in the years to come. I wanted to share a link to a program specifically for leaders in healthcare who are looking for insights into building the next chapter of their career in the early-stage. I was asked to contribute to this program based on my experience of leaving a large healthcare company and building my career in the early-stage. Please take a look at the link below.