Do You Learn From Failure, Or Just Wring Your Hands?

by Mike Sleppin

Mike Sleppin's specialty is creating significant positive change in people-intensive industries whose business environment is changing rapidly. For example, since 1989, Mike has worked with firms touching every facet of the construction, transportation and printing industries as well as the other professional groups (Architects, Accountants, Engineers, Commercial Insurance etc) that service those niche markets. As a highly experienced, global business traveler, he helps small to mid-sized organizations understand and plan for their successful expansion into global markets. As a result of Mike's body of work, organizations achieve the goals that are important to them on a regular and consistent basis.

I used to suggest to those who worked for me to at least make new mistakes rather than just repeat mistakes already being made. There are failures that can be seen as intelligent failures. Examples can be the development of a drug that turned out not to work, starting a new high tech business, etc. If you believe, as most of us do, that any and every failure is bad, how can one learn? If the goal is to punish failure each and every time, can the person or the organization ever grow? If it is never safe to fail, where would you or I be? In our governments today, the game of "gotcha" is practiced on a daily basis. How many would volunteer to be part of an organization that can't wait to scream "gotcha"? If you as a leader do not establish a culture that allows failures of some types would you expect employees to level with you? Would outcomes be better if you set boundaries that employees understood? No one advocates you "bet the company." Not every failure should be blameless, but certainly some should be. Have you the leader established the boundaries? If not should you? How much money are you spending on a project that should have been halted because no one is willing to say"this will not work"? Eli Lilly holds FAILURE PARTIES which let people know that not only is it OK to fail but it is sometimes necessary to fail so that dollars, time and other resources can be applied to projects that will succeed. Is there a group on board that regularly analyzes failure and gets to the root causes of the failure? Would that help save money and resources where you work? Is not the ability to learn essential to your success both in business, in government, and in your personal life?

Will there be open mindedness to change and innovation if no one will be willing to fail? Why would anyone promote the idea of experimentation if the price is to be "off with his head"? Think back of failures in your lifetime that had they not occurred would not have resulted in better results. Change your narrative and you can change your world.