‘FAILING FORWARD’ – FAILURE AS A SKILL
Failure is a great teacher, though many people fear failure. Our self-esteem is often tied to our achievements, and failures can dent this self-esteem or can cause us to feel our value is lowered in the eyes of our peers. However, failure can be a skill – one of the first lessons in many types of martial arts is how to fall down properly. Unfortunately, most business classes don’t teach this skill.
A big part of making failure work out for you is being in the right environment, where mistakes aren’t (only) met with sanctions but can be used to do better in the future. Why did a certain project not work out? Where did things go wrong? Could this be avoided in similar circumstances? For instance, as a developer, you may have successfully launched a new IT project at a client, but it later turns out no one is using your solution. This could be a stepping stone to invest in training and communication skills.
It’s the team, stupid
Classic corporate feedback focuses on the negative, sometimes creating a vicious circle where more criticism results in worse performances, sapping motivation and decreasing output. But failure, and its twin, success, are rarely the results of the actions of just one individual. One employee’s success is usually the result of collaboration with others, and so is failure. A team examination of where projects went wrong can be much more beneficial than playing the blame game.
To create this kind of environment, where both failures and successes can be discussed as a group, analyzing the fault lines and coming up with ideas to do better, takes mutual trust and confidence. Some companies ‘hand out’ trust on basis of merit, but it is likely better to give credit start. After all, if you hire someone, it must mean you believe in them.
Getting (your act) together
Giving trust, accepting potential failure and knowing how to learn from these cases means that you have a sense of basic confidence in your colleagues. When given space, people tend to organize their work in ways that benefit themselves as well as their employer – for instance, while some organizations are still wary of concepts like home office, there is no proof that allowing home office leads to worse performances or people slacking off.
Believing in people
At Oxygen, we are strong believers in people. This means we accept that failure can be part of a growth cycle. It also means we emphasize team work and collaboration, both within the company and with our clients. Getting stuck in a negative mindset after something goes wrong is bad for the individual and bad for the company. Allowing people to grow from setbacks is better, and better still if the entire team can also benefit from it.