Rajeev Behera knows a thing or two about failure.
As former director of mobile products at Disney Interactive, Behera was in charge of a 100-person studio tasked with churning out some of Disney’s most successful mobile games.
“You have to deal with failure quite a bit in the mobile gaming industry,” Behera says. “And when you fail, they are pretty huge failures.”
Behera’s teams would typically spend six to nine months — 10 hours a day, seven days a week — building a single game.
When the game was completed and launched, they knew within just two weeks whether it was going to be a success or a failure.
“To be successful, you have to make it onto the Top 20 list in the App Store, otherwise no one’s going to actually look at your game or know it exists, and it will just fade away and never be relevant,” Behera says.
According to Behera, about 30% of the games are successful in some way, and 70% are complete failures.
A 70% failure rate can be difficult for even the most motivated employees.
“It can be super demoralising,” Behera says. “It’s very difficult when people have worked so hard over the previous six to nine months, when they have believed in their project, and then so quickly afterwards — you don’t even have time to think because you’re so busy just launching the game — it’s decided you’re going to shut it down.”
Behera used the same three-step system to manage expectations and failure each time his team created a new game:
1. Manage expectations by assessing risks
Behera emphasises the importance of being transparent about risks before the point of failure.
“This was huge for us, because later on if a game failed for one of those reasons, we had already assessed that it was a risk we were willing to take,” he says. “It gives leadership credibility, and that credibility is needed to turn the corner from failure.”
2. Take ownership of failure
Behera says that acknowledging your own shortcomings is key to bouncing back. Taking responsibility for a failure, he explains, demonstrates confidence in your ability to move forward from it.
“If you can clearly explain why something failed, take ownership of that failure, and then come up with a solution or a go-forward plan, people will know you’re knowledgeable enough to dissect a problem and resilient in your efforts to solve that problem,” Behera says.
3. Learn from your mistakes
You can’t take failures personally, he says. Ask yourself, “How can I learn from this?”
“You need to get out of your own shoes and be able to look at the situation objectively to understand your mistakes,” Behera says. “Accepting your failures is the only way to move on from them.”
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