We Need a Speech About “How to Fail”


We Need a Speech About “How to Fail”

I have been thinking about the keynote speech we all heard at the NPA confab yesterday. Frankly if you have heard a couple of these, you could probably tell me what this one was about. Here’s the Title: Innovate or Perish: How the Parking Industry Can Stop Being A Commodity and Add More Value to the Customer”

An excellent speaker, Dr. Kevin Frieberg, first embarrassed us by telling us how a doctor in India is providing open heart surgery at $2000 a go, and doing it better than we do here in the US. How this doctor is setting up heart clinics across one of the poorest and most populace countries in the world. How he is going to be setting one up in the Grand Caymans, just and hour from Miami, and how…

But he didn’t tell us just ‘how’ the good doctor did his magic. We were told that the success was accomplished because he didn’t allow himself to be held back by anything and was able to create his success because… As Han Solo once said “Now that’s the trick, isn’t it?”

Visualizing a huge success, clinics in India, Apple iPhones, Microsoft word, the proper design for an MRI used by children, and yes the fact that we should have empathy for our customers and be ready to redesign parking structures and turn them into schools and hospitals and mini homes for millennials AND remember all the time that parking is the beginning and the end of all visits to wherever we are going so we should make it the best of all possible experiences is great. Turning that vision into reality is something else.

Dr. Frieberg is right. We do need to have visions and think outside the box. We do need to consider how to use our employee’s ideas and integrate them into our culture and our products. We do need to think about our industry from the point of view of our customers (parkers). And yes, we do need to form unlikely partnerships to begin to bring all this to fruition.

But frankly, I think that’s the easy part. The hard part is actually doing it.

There was not one suggestion in this talk that we haven’t heard a number of times from speakers at the NPA, IPI, PIE, Local Associations and other conventions. Consultants have spoken about converting parking structures. Managers have spoken about parking being the gateway and the exit, and ways to make it memorable. We have heard about frictionless parking and how hotels like the MGM and Caesars and shopping center chains like Westfield have turned their parking into technological wonders. There are 50 presentations this week at the NPA. They are all stressing specifics about what Dr. Frieberg generalized. They are discussing the problems, issues, and reality of parking life

But, as I’m sure the good doctor knows only too well, the hard part is actually doing it..

It’s taking the risk, and let me tell you, it’s a big risk. It’s trying to figure out how to get a mayor or a university president, or a shopping center owner, or a hospital administrator to pony up the bucks to create the environment your vision needs.

Its actually having the courage to get into the arena, most likely fail, but to give your vision a chance.

As I walked around the exhibit hall with Jordan, our newest employee, she commented on how many “first timers” there were. I smiled and noted that in all likelihood most of them wouldn’t be there next year.

However, they are giving it a shot. They are taking the risk. They are putting their vision out there and working to get it from vaporware to reality.

Most of them weren’t in the keynote speech.  They were in their rooms making that last adjustment to that line of code, or in the exhibit hall, putting up a booth they couldn’t afford, or getting up their courage to actually talk to someone about their vision. After all, they are nerds and don’t do that very well.

But they have time to fail. They are 23 and can start over. What about the 50 or 60 year olds in the audience at that keynote speech. If they fail, then what? Just how many times can you bet the farm.

It seems to me we need a speech not about what to do, but about how to do it. Perhaps not how to succeed, but how to fail, and then come back again and again. Maybe we need to be reminded about “Outliers” and how those who succeed spent 10000 hours getting there. We need to be reminded that Babe Ruth also had the most strikeouts.

I’m going to spend some time today in those ‘first timer’ booths. Maybe they could use a little help, or at least someone to listen. It can get pretty lonely in the arena.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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