Never Fail to Fail!

Vienna on Oct 21, 2013

A recent interesting article on Fast Company inspired us to drop a few words on one of our favorite topics that we also love to elaborate on in our workshops and trainings: learning from failure.

  We all know from our own personal experiences that the lessons we learned from our failures were probably some of the most valuable ones and got us where we are today. However, to many of us the thought of possibly failing many more times in the future is still a scary one. But on the road to success there is no way that leads around the “big f”. Can you think of any successful person that never failed? A cool invention that was developed without trial and error? Chances are, if you can, you probably just don’t know about their failures. Like another related article on Wired.com points out, as kids we are not afraid to explore crazy ideas and learn through failure. That same mindset can be incredibly fruitful for driving innovation within your company.

So why be scared? Maybe because you are scared of your boss’s or coworkers’ reactions? Naturally, you do not want to disappoint your team members or leaders. But making mistakes can in fact mean the exact opposite. Provided the mistakes you are making are not because of a consistent lack of care about your work, but accidental mistakes you made with the best intentions in mind (and that might have happened to anybody else in your position), chances are your failures can be a big help to everybody in your team. If you are brave enough to share them, that is.

A great example of how failure can be an integral part of a healthy modern company culture comes from the usual suspects of Google: Every year, employees are encouraged to share their failures and the lesson they learned from it. The best failure wins the so-called “Penguin Award” (coming from penguins’ strategy of survival to send one brave penguin ahead into the water to see if there are sharks).

Of course, what works for Google may not work for all other companies, but it might be worth considering being a champion for change and not keeping the valuable lessons you are learning to yourself. Whether you have people working for you or above you, wouldn’t you respect a person who is fearless enough to share their setbacks with those around them? After all, the more we dare to fail as a team, the less we fail as individuals.