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Is Failure Bad?

January 15th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 comments on “Is Failure Bad?”

Culturally and psychologically, failure, be it in personal life or in business is deemed a bad thing.

Culturally and psychologically, failure be it in personal life or in business is deemed a bad thing. But is it really? I say this because we all have tough moments in life but should these really be seen as negatives or failures? Whether we forget to grab the milk on the way home of fail to land the $1 Million pitch we are going for, they are both seen as failures. Can we not however also see them as measures of success and a way to facilitate growth?

Earlier last year I heard Markus Zusak, author of many books including “The Book Thief,” speak about failure as a necessary part of every authors story telling process. Imagination and stories go down many paths before they materialise into a best selling novel. Failure is therefor a metric of success to aid in a better outcome, in this case, a globally successful novel. I encourage you to listen to his talk below:

The failurist: Markus Zusak at TEDxSydney 2014

Having been involved in the corporate and start-up worlds I have to say I have had some great achievements but I have also had some epic failures. I want to outlay three key leanings about what I think often goes wrong and why this is a good thing for me and for you as we strive to learn and change based on our failure:

Ambiguity:

In many projects, you want to hit the ground running and get cracking. We have an innate desire to immediately be perceived to understand a problem as we look for the solution. We jump then to problem solving but what happens along the way is we don’t have time or just don’t spend time on the details. My experience suggests that ambiguity will then arise. It can be as basic as assumed terminology to a complete divide between what artifacts and deliverables are needed as an output for a project.

Make sure their is clarity from the start! That the unknowns are discussed and the outputs are clear. My failures have taught me that the more work you spend removing ambiguity, the more successful your projects will be.

Stakeholder Management:

This is applicable to both Start-ups as well as corporate environments. Be it a VC from your first round of funding or multiple divisions within an organisation, the need to manage effectively will be directly tied to your success. Failure to manage this adequately can lead to scope creep, reduced involvement and sometimes a toxic project that needs to be ditched and started again.

Key here is the level of empathy you have and how you can use this as your own measure of success during a project or startup. Empathy is one of those things we all have but often don’t use in this situation. Understanding the needs of your stakeholders, constantly meeting with them and engaging with them will go a long way to keeping them focused, happy and committed to your project or end goal.

Communication:

This is the most common of breakpoints in any interaction where a project is behind schedule and we fail to communicate. We don’t like to communicate negative information so instead of saying something negative we say nothing at all. Always say something, negative or positive. Failure to communicate leads people, projects, founders to go off and come to their own, usually negative conclusions.

When I have failed to communicate, projects have often gone off the rails. Keep everyone involved, regularly communicate and projects will often cope through what we perceive to be negative issues.

Failure:

If I hadn’t experienced these issues, I would never have been able to learn, remember the milk (using an app) and won business. I really believe we need to embrace failure as a positive part of our learning process, to be better in our professional and personal endeavours and to recognise that we may not be perfect but we can continue to learn how to be better.

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