Failing is painful. There is no other way to put it. It often feels like a disappointment to oneself or others, a burden of shame, and a heavy loss of trust in new beginnings. We are not perfect, we learn by failing, but we do that only if we change our perspective about it. Failure is not an obstacle to success; it's a stepping stone. A culture that embraces failure paves the way for innovation and growth.
🔳 Failing is an approach different by culture. In the United States, individuals are encouraged to take risks and view failure as a learning experience. In contrast, Japanese society perceives failure to be a severe stain on one's professional reputation, and executives of failed companies are expected to publicly apologize. Islamic cultures generally hold negative views on failure due to their emphasis on maintaining harmony and personal connections. However, some cultures, such as India, are gradually becoming more accepting of entrepreneurship and risk-taking. In India, technological advancements and a growing startup culture are shifting attitudes towards failure. (Bryant, 2021)
We propose three different perspectives to see failing:
Failing creates innovation.
The discovery of penicillin was an accident. In 1928, Alexander Fleming, a Scottish bacteriologist, was working in his laboratory at St. Mary's Hospital in London when he noticed that a mold had contaminated one of his Petri dishes of Staphylococcus bacteria. Fleming observed that the mold, which he later identified as Penicillium notatum, had created a clear zone around it where no bacteria were growing. He realized that the mold must be producing a substance that was inhibiting the growth of bacteria. He named this substance penicillin.
🔳 What would have happened if Fleming had had perfect working conditions? Would've discovered penicillin? maybe, maybe later. Who knows? But this is an example that failure is not always bad. Some failures can be "smart" failures, which provide valuable information and help us learn from our mistakes. This is especially true in the workplace, where employees who try new things to improve the business should not be punished if their experiments don't succeed. Instead, their efforts should be encouraged, as they are essential for innovation. A culture that tolerates and even celebrates failure is more likely to foster creativity and lead to long-term success.
2. Failing means learning (about yourself and the world). When we fail, we can learn about ourselves, our strengths, and our weaknesses. We can also learn about the world around us and how things work. When we fail, we can reflect on what went wrong and identify the areas where we need to improve. This can help us to focus on developing our strengths and overcoming our weaknesses. Failure can teach us resilience, the ability to bounce back from setbacks. When we learn to deal with failure positively, we are more likely to succeed in the long run.
🔳 Deliberately examining what went wrong, identifying shortcomings, and modifying practices accordingly are essential for extracting valuable lessons from failures. However, we should not advocate for failure as an end goal but rather as a potential consequence of venturing beyond comfort zones and investing both effort and resources. (Jancovich & Stevenson, 2023)
3. Failing shows courage. Failure can be a courageous act because it requires facing our fears and stepping outside of our comfort zones. It means putting ourselves out there and taking risks, knowing that there is a possibility of not succeeding. This can be a very scary thing to do, but it is also essential for growth and development.
🔳 Failing also requires us to be vulnerable. We have to be willing to admit our mistakes and shortcomings and to open ourselves up to the possibility of being judged or criticized. This can be difficult, but it is also a sign of strength and maturity.
🔳 Failing shows that we are persistent and resilient. It means that we are not willing to give up on our goals, even when things don't go our way. This is a key quality to have in any area of life, and it is especially important for entrepreneurs and innovators.
However, not every failure is to be praised. Amy Edmondson states in her book that:
„Good failures are those that bring us valuable new information that simply could not have been gained any other way.” (Edmondson, 2023)
While failure can be a valuable learning experience, not all failures are created equal.
"Good" failures are those that provide valuable lessons and help us to improve our skills and knowledge. They are often the result of trying new things, taking risks, and pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. These failures can lead to breakthroughs, innovation, and personal growth.
"Bad" failures, on the other hand, are those that are avoidable and can have negative consequences. They are often the result of recklessness, poor decision-making, or a lack of preparation. These failures can damage our reputations, hurt our relationships, and set us back in our goals.
✅ At Tallent Collection we promote intelligent failing in our dedicated courses on how to fail fast. Participants learn how to use experiences of failure to their advantage or the benefit of their teams and organizations. We discuss ‘Fast failing’ as a methodology, and exemplify it with practical exercises to help explore the three main mechanisms through which failure can lead to ultimate success: self-efficacy (believing in the ability to learn from failure), wonder (being excited about not knowing), and serendipity (being able to turn accidents into opportunities).
📩 Have we piqued your curiosity? Looking forward to seeing you in our classrooms and learning how to turn failures into priceless opportunities! You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.