Why You Should Not Celebrate Failure

“In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do the next time” – Anthony J D’Angelo

D’Angelo’s words are just one of the many monikers that encourage failure – how else are we meant to learn? We constantly encourage people to take risks and move quickly to innovate – from the get-go Facebook’s motto has been ‘move quickly and break things’. The entrepreneurial dream fetishizes failure, it’s a romantic rite of passage. We spend time poring over case studies of billionaires who have risen, phoenix-like from the ashes of their failures. If this is the blueprint for our success then we need not fear failure – if anything we should seek it out.

The problem with this outlook is that it prioritizes the wrong pieces of the puzzle. We are numbed to a crucial aspect of building a business – fear. We should fear failure, we should fear not ‘making it’ – this is what will keep us going on those late nights, what will help drive us towards our goal.

Losing this sense of anxiety is only one reason why celebrating failure is misguided. Here are a few more:

Celebrate Learning Instead

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 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. And that is why I succeed” – Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan’s words are often misquoted to celebrate the value of failure. What they do instead is advocate the importance of learning from mistakes. Failure may be a common byproduct, but it can never be the end-product – it’s only useful if you learn from it.

This is the basis of the ‘lean startup‘ methodology that has quickly become the handbook for many entrepreneurs. Author Eric Ries argues that you should constantly test different approaches and iterate based on your learnings.

Constant experimentation in this fashion ensures we learn from our mistakes and keep our focus firmly on developing as a business or as a person.

Avoid A Culture Of Failure

Career coach Rebecca ‘Kiki’ Weingarten stresses that we are edging towards a dangerous situation. She believes that we’re moving towards a ‘failure society’ where we actively reward those who fail – similar to rewarding people ‘for just showing up’.

This blurs the lines and makes it easy to approach every mistake in the same way. It’s essential that we don’t just gloss over avoidable errors that were due to poor decision making, as this could easily lead to complacency. It’s always nice to get a pat on the back, but we need to make sure that we continue to hold our workforce to a high standard.

Stop Relying On The Easy Excuses

Ultimately failure means that something went wrong.  Celebrating failure gives people an easy excuse and lets them avoid taking responsibility for their actions. If no one is ever held accountable, there is little motivation for employees to give it their all. No one is really invested in their work.

This can be dangerous for organisations. Companies function best when people take ownership of their work – accepting the consequences of failure as well as the plaudits for success. Without this it might be a struggle to keep our workforce engaged. They need to be liable for slip ups but also encouraged to try new approaches – it’s a delicate balance.

This post originally appeared on the Seed Blog

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The New Job Description

The organizations of today and tomorrow must be highly adaptive and flexible. Unfortunately, the model we have inherited and have come to know as the model for structuring an organization, the hierarchy, is not.

So what does this mean for those who define their role or even themselves by the fundamental the building block of an organization – their  job?

In his 1994 book, Job Shift, William Bridges referred to the “job” as “an artifact of the industrial revolution.” Our most common notion of organization structure, the hierarchy, was born out of Newton’s laws of physics. It is a model of cause and effect in which assumes the whole equals the sum of its parts. It is those laws that led to the essential breakthrough of the industrial revolution – the ability to make large numbers of “things” by defining the discreet tasks required to make them and finding increasingly better and faster ways to execute those tasks.  It is also the source of the construct we have today called a job was born.

However, the organizations of today can no longer function purely like machines.   This means we as individuals can no longer afford to relate to ourselves as a cog in the machine if we are to succeed.

Consider that the organization of today functions far more like complex adaptive system than it does like a machine. Cause and effect isn’t so easy to discern and roles and responsibilities can seem to be a moving target. While the traditional organization chart isn’t likely to be replaced anytime soon, if we are to be effective into the future we have to start thinking differently about how we fit into the organizations we serve.

We can no longer define our “job” purely in terms of what we do. We must consider what we do in relation to others and in service of the ultimate goals of our enterprise.

The underlying assumption when it comes to hierarchical organization charts and job descriptions is that if we define what each individual is supposed to do and they actually do it then everything will work perfectly. Given that assumption, when things break down, the obvious solution is to go back to clarifying or redefining roles and responsibilities.  Essentially we try to define our box even clearer.  In the process, silos are reinforced at the expense of creating the kind of solid relationships required to succeed.

Consider there is a missing link that will enable you to shift from relating to jobs as separate from one another to defining jobs in relation to one another.  That missing link is getting clear about the results you promise as well as the promises you must make individually to others to ensure the enterprise succeeds. Your success depends not on a chain of command, but rather a solid network of strong relationships.

Traditional job descriptions focus on the activities – essentially what you do. Today we must consider BOTH what we need to be able to do AND what results we must be able to deliver to fulfill on the needs and aspirations of our organization.  This also means that what you must do includes whatever it takes to deliver, not the list of tasks that define your “box” on the org chart.  There is no room for the “check the box” mentality in the organizations of the future.

This may seem simple and obvious, but from experience I can say it is a huge leap for most people in organizations. Just ask an someone to make a “promise”. That word evokes an incredible amount of resistance. Promising is serious business.  It is the heart of what make entrepreneurs successful and employees extraordinary contributors.

When you embrace the idea that your job is to promise results you will set yourself apart from the average person who simply goes to work to try their best to do a good job. Ask not what you need to do, but rather ask what results you could produce that would make the biggest difference.

So go ahead, be daring! Promise results and do whatever it takes to deliver and you will set yourself apart from the pack.