For crazy out of the box thinkers. No idea is too crazy to be considered here. Bust the paradigms!
Failure is an Imperative
February 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm #92214
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life an
that is why I succeed.”
– Michael Jordan
If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.If we didn’t have failure, we wouldn’t have growth. Fail early.
Check out this site for more incredible examples of failure and success over the years. These people lived boldly. They dared to fail.
February 16, 2010 at 4:36 pm #92238
Dave, good post. When I hear the advice to “fail early and often,” it seems to be about trying things and taking risks — allowing for failure and learning — rather than playing it too safe and maybe paying the price later.
But I’m wondering whether all failures are equally good and whether there are still certain kinds of failure to avoid. Would think the answer is YES. If so, it would be helpful to know more about what makes for a “successful” failure and what doesn’t. More details and specifics. Would love to hear ideas on this or any references to work that’s been done.
February 24, 2010 at 11:26 am #92236
Oh I have always loved that quote from MJ. Good stuff.
February 24, 2010 at 11:32 am #92234
I had htis exact same conversation with a coworker recently. He was joking that failure is an option, and that is the option he has decided to take. After we had a little giggle, we started talking about failures vs when to give up. I believe successful failures is when you learn something from the failure and learn what adjustments to make. You mitigate risks to have less and less failures until you succeed. Soldiers do this everyday. They look at a situation, they use all information handed to them to mitigate the risk, and even when soldiers get killed, the mission itself may have been a succes.
So, successful failure is when you do all you can to suceed, then you fail, then you do your best over and over, making changes along the way, and eventually you may suceed.
February 24, 2010 at 1:16 pm #92232
In my experience there are a few types of failures that are unacceptable:
1. Failure through negligence. My military training made it abundantly clear that there are some circumstances where much more than you’re own interests are at risk. Failure to check a critical piece of equipment or falling asleep on watch are serious failures that are simply not tolerated – for good reason.
2. Failure that ends in failure. When failure is embraced as a learning and growth tool, it is never the last thing we do. If we fail, then lay down because we failed, then nothing was gained. If we fail, and as a result of the failing, rise stronger, then that failure was an investment.
3. Failure as the default. If not doing anything results in failure, then failure to act is unacceptable.
I’m sure someone else might have other good examples of failure to avoid, but these are the ones that come to mind for me. Thanks for raising the point.
February 26, 2010 at 3:45 am #92230
Amanda, David — appreciate the comments. Just re-reading my post and thinking I’m such a research geek sometimes…asking for “references.” Your examples definitely help…and the ones where failure really is failure make the whole argument more powerful, at least for me. Guess I like to be able to see both sides. Thanks!
February 26, 2010 at 11:49 am #92228
Good stuff Joshua!
April 5, 2010 at 8:12 pm #92226
June 1, 2010 at 7:53 pm #92224
June 1, 2010 at 10:18 pm #92222
Josh, You sure do have an interest in this subject. Awesome materials you’re posting. Thank you.
There’s a cultural phenomenon I had in mind when first writing this piece. It has to do with the slow pace of progress in Federal government. My experience is that some groups (like Federal employees) tend to be slow to adopt change. Some of this, I theorize, has to do with the type of people who are often drawn to Federal service. The stereotypical government job = job security. So, the job attracts people who hold job security as a very important ideal.
People seeking job security tend to be less likely to accept anything that puts their job security at risk. Thus, failure is a very uncomfortable thing. Since change doesn’t happen without failure, change comes slow to the federal government.
I encourage people to accept failure s a natural component of growth. Leaders will do well to reward certain types of failures. The worst type of failure is – and the failure to be engineered out of the work place – is in my opinion, the failure to try something new.
June 2, 2010 at 2:34 am #92220
Funny, I thought the same thing as I posted this last one up. Don’t think I’m looking out for these stories on purpose but, then again, for some reason I’ve remembered this thread after all these months whereas I can’t remember many others I’ve posted to.
Totally with you that this is an area worth pushing on. Also just had a thought. Not sure it will get traction but am going to recommend “risk-taking” as a new category for the annual Service to America Medal awards for federal employees that my org. gives out. We definitely support this idea but don’t think we’ve explicitly targeted it for recognition. Do you have any good examples where leaders have followed this line?
All best, Josh
June 12, 2010 at 1:06 am #92218
Josh, I consider the fact that you find these strings the most memorable one’s you’ve posted in to be a high compliment. It’s encouraging to know that our discussions are that good!
I don’t know any leaders who have explicitly embraced risk taking as you suggest, but I’d love to see this. I tend to be informal with my rewards, but they come often, are specific and honest, and are intended to foster growth in areas that are custom made for each employee.
It’s not hard to encourage risk taking in an organization, so long as you are honestly committed to it and are willing to deal with the inevitable slap or two. The key, I’ve found, is consistency through good times and bad – and a willingness to go to bat for your people (and take the hits) when someone higher up the chain doesn’t have the same tolerance for risk.
I love the idea of annual Service to America Medal awards. I wasn’t aware of this until you pointed it out. It looks like an excellent program. I will spend more quality time with this site in the future.
November 4, 2011 at 9:54 pm #92216
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