My Article in Business2Community – A Look In The Mirror: Learning From Failure

Business2Community just published my article “A Look In The Mirror: Learning From Failure” yesterday.  In the article I describe how organizations need to address their failures instead of running from them if they are truly going to learn.  I suggested that an organization’s HR function can act as a catalyst in addressing failures by creating an opportunity to share the lessons learned with the entire organization.  One way that an organization can start building in a tolerance for failure is by having their own Failure Forums where they address each failure with three questions: 1) What did the team accomplish?, 2) What did the team learn?, and 3) What would they have done differently?  If every organization would embrace failure in this way I guarantee that we would see a significant improvement in innovation by reducing our fear of failure.

I have copied the first part of the post below and linked to the complete article here: Full Article: A Look In The Mirror: Learning From Failure

Businesses, or any organizations, for that matter, are part of a system of actions and reactions. Sometimes action leads to failure, and sometimes action yields success.

No matter the outcome, there are teachable moments that can ensure one failed action doesn’t end with defeat. Implemented strategically, these failures can lead to new knowledge and, ultimately, future success.

Learn How to Learn

Every organizational leader intuitively knows the importance of learning at both an individual level and an organizational level. The biggest challenge is showing employees how crucial it is to learn from every action — whether it was a success or failure. Individuals inherently know that reflecting on a failure and learning from it can be beneficial, but how do you stress the importance of reflection for the company’s overall good?

Enter the human resources (HR) department. A good HR department ensures that learning from successes or failures is part of the employee development plan. We participate in shared learning sessions and make them part of employee compensation and benefits programs. Just having an HR department that puts an emphasis on this kind of reflection shows the importance of transparency and accountability to employees.

Admitting failures and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is never easy, especially in front of peers. But, if everyone — from executives to rank-and-file employees — participates, it helps remove the negative stigma associated with discussing failures. In highly competitive organizations, it’s imperative that every executive is aligned so politics don’t hinder participation.

If this process is new to your company, I’d recommend making your leaders the guinea pigs. Having them share past failures should make the rest of the employees more comfortable and willing to approach superiors in the future about problems. Share stories about those who have failed, but refused to let failure slow them down. Thomas Edison patented more than 1,000 inventions, but we only know him for a few. Had he quit before the light bulb, would technology be as advanced as it is today?

3 replies to “My Article in Business2Community – A Look In The Mirror: Learning From Failure”

  1. Matt Hunt | Jan 11, 2013, 10:23 am

    It looks like building a tolerance for failure to drive innovation is catching on. A similar post caught the attention of …

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