As a society it seems we are in love with overnight success stories. The problem is they do not exist, or they are so rare we would be hard pressed to name an example. Behind every success story is an investment of countless hours of deliberate practice and learning from failure.
How an individual or organization processes failure is crucial to agility, innovation, and learning. When our first response to failure is to become defensive, make excuses, or sugarcoat our mistakes, we hinder learning and growth.
Teams and organizations get stuck because the individuals who make up the organization get stuck. In an ever-changing world, an organization cannot survive if it is unwilling to change. Success requires the people in the organization to take healthy risks by generating and implementing new ideas that will make the organization better. Of course, some ideas will succeed, and some ideas will fail, and mistakes will be made along the way.
An organization that is quick to punish failure is communicating it is not okay to take a healthy risk. The result is people will stop taking initiative. They will wait to be told what to do and how to do it, because that is the safe path. This is the definition of disengagement and is the consequence of a fear-based culture. Likewise, in this type of culture, individuals are less likely to admit when they make a mistake or need help.
ALL innovation comes with risk of failure. So, the question is not, 'How do I avoid failure?' It should be 'How will I respond when I fail?'
Processing failure in a healthy manner—in a way that nurtures initiative and continuous learning—is essential. 100% Responsibility is the key ingredient. Great organizations and agile teams—ones that produce long-term, sustainable results—are characterized by continuous learning and move through the following cycle very quickly:
Own it — Take 100% Responsibility for your part in contributing to the failure.
Fix it — Take 100% Responsibility for the solution and what you are going to do about it.
Learn from It — Take 100% Responsibility for learning from the experience and how you apply the learning moving forward.
How to Be Agile in an Era of Adversity and Rapid Change
Ships December 2022