Losing is a powerful tool

It is important to break the connection between "admitting failure" and "taking blame." So said Amy Edmondson in an article in Harvard Business Review. Removing "blame" from the equation also prevents us from trying to pin the failure on other people or circumstances.

Failure does not necessarily mean that you did something "bad". For example, If you rescue a drowning person and then fail to revive them through CPR resuscitation, does this imply that you have done something "bad"? No, of course it doesn’t.

There is not a necessary connection between "failure" and "bad" although it may FEEL this way sometimes. Failure comes, not to obstruct but to instruct. The lessons we learn from life through failure can lead to personal growth

In empirical science, there is no such thing as a "failed" experiment. All experiments yield valid and often valuable knowledge. You may have wanted to turn the blue crystals green but the fact that they turned red may be a blessing. It is an invitation to reflective practice.

Perhaps you set up the experiment incorrectly? Maybe it was in some way contaminated or you used the wrong materials. An unknown factor may have contributed, to which you have now been alerted. The perceived "failure" of your experiment has generated all of these possibilities to follow up.

This is what Edmondson refers to as "intelligent failure" which she sees as a good thing. If an idea doesn’t work, you have at least learned "that approach doesn’t work."

In Edmondson’s article she presents a diagram which shows failure viewed as a spectrum. At one end, we have what she calls "blameworthy" issues which range from neutral to ‘praiseworthy’ issues at the other end of the spectrum.

For example, say you went on a "not so good" date. Your date was all dressed up while you wore an old, torn Pink Floyd tee shirt with dog hairs all over it. It is likely that you are partly responsible for the perceived failure of this date. Pay more attention to grooming next time! Lesson Learned.

On the other hand, if your date’s on-line profile had read "Pink Floyd fan from way back, LOVE dogs, hate having to dress up!" then your dress strategy could be seen as "praiseworthy". You did your best and if they had been paying attention, they would have noticed that you had read their profile carefully. In this case, perhaps the venue was the issue.

Sometimes you can’t win! That, apparently, is a good thing.

By Warren Heggarty from Panorama Magazine

 

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