(The previous post described the events around the session. This post is the content of the session.)
There are many different types of failures, but here are four:
1) Failures we laugh at because it happened to someone else.
2) Failures we talk about but don’t do anything to correct them.
3) Failures we ignore, don’t talk about and pretend like they don’t happen – like at these conferences. It seems these are the big elephants in the room that we want to avoid. But there is a danger in not sharing our failures. Here we often talk about WHAT E2.0 is. We talk about HOW to do it. Yet we don’t often talk about WHY we failed or succeeded. We see a lot of use cases, but not the analysis to really understand WHY it worked or didn’t.
4) There are failures that are so bit that we can’t do anything but face them. NASA is known for the many incredible things it has done, but it has also had some difficult failures. So much so, that just about everyone – at least every American alive at the time – can remember where they were when they heard about NASA’s failures.
It is odd that we shun failures, yet our culture often times sets us up for failure.
Watch this video and learn more about why MBA’s fail at a certain task, yet kindergarten kids do extremely well.
Why did they do better? They iterated. Fail. Try again. Repeat. (Just like shampoo.) Then we take what works and amplify it. And what didn’t work we dampen it. (link to this video)
Why don’t we like to fail? Because it (unfortunately) cheapens our value in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. But it shouldn’t unless we don’t move on and iterate. But to do that, we have to trust those around us. When we don’t trust, we make rules and try to box people in and control them. Feeling controlled, they don’t want to make mistakes. Instead of focusing on the things that will make us successful, we focus on the issues that are small and – in the end – inconsequential.
When we trust, we allow for more failure. It kind of seems backwards, but it is true.
Trust increases failure. Failure increases learning. Learning increases innovation. Innovation increases progress.
If we don’t trust, failure will happen less. Then so will learning, innovation and progress.
The currency of any social system is trust. Think about an organization that is going through (or anticipates going through) layoffs. What is the natural human reaction? Because they don’t trust the organization they box themselves in, making sure they do their best to protect themselves and their own teams to the detriment of the whole organization. Having worked with many organizations going through layoffs, it is a consistent reaction that happens in every case.
So, in the spirit of progress, embrace your inner failure. When you make a mistake, celebrate it, iterate and move on.
There are a few E2.0 catastrophic failures (but no one wants to talk about them). More common by far – and the failures we are all accustomed to – are the smaller ones. They can make a big difference if we learn what they are, how to avoid them and what to do if we fall into the trap. The fear of failure is a paralyzing feeling. Let’s not allow it to stop our progression.
Starting tomorrow I will post one E2.0 failure a week. I encourage you to answer these two questions:
1) How can we avoid this situation?
2) Now that the mistake is done, how to we recover?
Please add your opinions, experience and expertise in the comments so we can all learn from each other.
My favorite part of any conference is meeting one-on-one with people or in small groups and letting the conversation take us on a journey. I learn so much from many smart and experienced people. My hope is that we can continue the conversation here.