Similar to the Japanese proverb “Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight”, Innovators and leaders share what I call the ‘Chumbawumba’ effect in common. Have a look at this clip from Chumbawumba to see / hear what I mean:
“I get knocked down but I get up again” summarises the quality of ‘emotional resilience’, also known as ‘mental toughness’ and ‘bouncing back’, as described by business psychologists through the ages. Accepted wisdom says that the ability to recover from life’s difficulties and move on is a good thing. Certainly it’s a very important concept for innovators and leaders, as life throws its fair degree of obstacles in the way of a new idea.
In my time working on life saving pharmaceuticals, I’ve seen brilliant scientists destroyed by changes of plans which mean that they are asked to stop working on their pet project or passion. Bouncing back may take years in such cases. This is clearly not productive for the person or the enterprise. When I worked for Sir Trevor Jones at the Wellcome Foundation, he wisely observed that it took 20 years to build a climate of trust and 20 seconds to destroy it.
At the other extreme we have those who keep bouncing back but who never learn from their mistakes. Typified by people who start an enterprise, fail, make themselves bankrupt, start up again the following day and keep doing this, leaving chaos in their wake. Hardly entrepreneurs, just charlatans and cheats. Summed up in this deeply ironic clip from the quintessentially English comedian Alan Partridge:
The differentiator between these two poles (living in regret / reflection / rumination versus crashing on through life regardless) is the ability to learn from setbacks.
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Peter Cook is Rock’n'Roll Innovation Editor at Innovation Excellence. He leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock, and provides Keynote speaking, Organisation Development and Business Coaching. www.humdyn.co.uk and www.academy-of-rock.co.uk. You can follow him on twitter @Academyofrock