Linked2Leadership published my article yesterday titled “Hey Leaders: Failure Isn’t a Dirty Word.” In the article I describe how avoidance is a natural psychological response to failure but by doing so we miss out on the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. I go on to describe some of the key takeaways from each failure and how it is rarely beneficial to seek to place blame when sharing internal failures since it almost never never lies with just one source. I finish the article with a reminder that the for innovation to be part of a repeatable cycle you cannot short circuit the failure process and you must treat your innovation leaders well if you want the organization to continue taking risks.
There won’t be any floats or parades in San Francisco today but there will be a similarly strong debate on fear, emotion, and failure. Today is the fourth annual FailCon conference being held in San Francisco, California. The goal of the conference is to “Stop being afraid of failure and start embracing it” and it is targeted at Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, investors, developers and designers. The thought is that by talking about our failures and learning from the failures of others we can move beyond our fear of failure toward our path to success. Sound familiar?
I have to admit that I’m pretty excited! My interview with MO.com was published yesterday on my work in launching my writing, blogging, and speaking business with MattHunt.co & FailureForums.com. In the interview I discuss my personal failure story and my subsequent interest in helping organizations understand the importance of planning for and learning from failure.
A friend and former colleague who knows of my interest and passion for better understanding failure had forwarded a link to me a few months back for www.admittingfailure.com. The site is hosted by Ashley Good from the group Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWBC). Ashley launched the site in January 2011 as part of a growing movement in bringing transparency to failures in the international development sphere. The people working in the non-profit sector are not much different to those working in for-profit businesses when it comes to failure. A statement from the site notes that “The development community is failing…to learn from failure. Instead of recognizing these experiences as learning opportunities, we hide them away out of fear and embarrassment.”
How do we learn how to fail? I know this sounds like a ridiculous question, we don’t need to “know” how to fail because it just happens. We start with a plan or idea and it could be any plan really: to get an A on a paper, to get into a certain school, to ask someone out on a date, or to get that next promotion. We then set in motion actions that will get us closer to our plan: studying the class material, preparing an application, finding out a phone number (I have to admit my dating experience might be a “dated”), or delivering a key project for your boss. Eventually you will either succeed or fail in your plan: maybe you ace the test, you get your acceptance letter, she agrees to a first date, or you get that promotion? But maybe you don’t? And if not, then what happens next? What is your fallback plan, your contingency, or your pivot? How do you pick yourself up and move on?
Today Peter Sims wrote about my favorite topic Failure in an article for the HBR Blog titled “The No. 1 Enemy of Creativity: Fear of Failure.” Sims comments on how parents, teachers, and bosses all push us to prevent errors and mitigate risks. He points out how entrepreneurs and designers have a different frame of mind toward failure seeing “mistakes” as part of the trial-and-error processes of driving innovation. Sims calls for each of us to revolt against this thinking and to no longer be “shackled by these norms.”
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