“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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