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  • Gunjan Syal

Paradox: Inclusion Vs. Tolerance of Failure

Updated: Jul 14



Transformation and innovation cultures are a paradox in the remote-work world. Delivering success requires maturity and resilience; at both the team member and organizational levels.


This Harvard Business Review article presents the most transparent view of the situation I have ever come across. Specifically, this is the core of the matter:


Gary P. Pisano: "A tolerance for failure requires an intolerance for incompetence. A willingness to experiment requires rigorous discipline. Psychological safety requires comfort with brutal candor. Collaboration must be balanced with individual accountability. And flatness requires strong leadership."

I've recently witnessed leaders and teams confusing inclusion with an increased tolerance for failure. The situation is becoming more complex due to the post-pandemic remote work scenarios. It is difficult to gauge how much focus is realistically available at a given time when the teams are remote, and team members are living through very different daily routines. Note that time and focus are very different currencies. Time management yields a perception of engagement. It is focus that ultimately yields productivity. This is especially true in remote work world during business transformations. The relative business priorities may change quickly in the post-pandemic world, often 'out-of-sight' for certain team members. Yet, Inclusion and work-performance are two very different and related concepts.


The goal of inclusion is to create a level playing field for inviting diverse and valuable ideas. It does not imply that every idea must be actioned or piloted by default. It is also not inclusive to accept low quality from a select few team members, while others on the team continue to find smarter ways to align themselves with the business priorities and accelerate quality delivery. This is the opposite of inclusion. As Gary P. Pisano says, we should celebrate impactful lessons learned, not repeat failures with no evidence of lessons learned.


Inclusion does not demand sacrifices of quality and value.

A transformational leader building remote-work bridges must transparently share shifts in business priorities or direction with the teams as quickly as they happen, even if the messages are unpopular with the team members. This means risking difficult and unpleasant conversations with their team members, and re-balancing expectations. This path is not for the faint of heart. If a team is unwilling to have difficult conversations, then they can not productively bridge perspectives and find strategies to create ecosystem-wide value. Leaders must make tough decisions to course-correct and chart the innovation journey with a holistic view, considering all the stakeholders.


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