Resilience is a hot topic these days. The ability to adapt to new circumstances, to new contexts and environments, to continual technological change, to new managerial styles, etc. is critical to survive in today’s world.
But in this process that frequently involves reinventing yourself, we often forget to talk about a key factor: FAILURE. It’s almost as we were afraid of pronouncing this word. We are taught that failure is a sign of weakness, although in many circumstances, it’s just the opposite. It means that you have risked, that you have tried, that you are learning and growing. However, we are taught that problems are to be avoided. And failure is very often seen as a problem.
There is a key element of failure (and of success) that we need to be aware of: when an idea, a project or a business fails is not the person involved who has failed; it’s the idea, the project or the business that has failed. I would even go further: it’s not the whole project that has failed – It is something specific about the project that has failed. And it’s incredibly valuable to reflect on this and identify what it is that has not worked. Because failures can bring amazing opportunities if we sit down to reflect on what hasn’t worked, identify where the gaps are and re-evaluate our objectives and priorities.
This involves learning to recognise failure. And sometimes we don’t need to wait until the end of a process to recognise failure. How often did you have a gut feeling about something you knew was not working and you didn’t do anything about it? We need to pay attention to our instinctive impressions and, if necessary, share this with the rest of the team. You may even decide to abandon a project! And having the ability to abandon projects at an early stage is critical when we know that is not going to work.
From a team and people management perspective, if we want to empower our team-members and create an entrepreneurial environment, we need to acknowledge failure as part of the process of learning and innovation. If we only reward success and we penalise failure, people will not be open to taking risks and experimenting.
During the years, many world top leaders have shared their failures and highlighted how they have learned tremendously from these failures. There are many examples that we can talk about, but I personally love the way Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and Pixar, explains how many of his successes grew out of failures on his speech at Stamford in 2005. See the link below and enjoy the speech! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA
And remember what Benjamin Franklin once said: ´Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out´
Ane Fernandez is a former employee of BRS who now lives in the United Arab Emirates. Ane is continuously learning and is passionate about embedding knowledge into others.