Fear of failure is one of basic feelings that is very hard to overcome. Some fear consequences, some are ashamed and afraid of not appearing successful in front of others, others fear being caught in vicious cycle of continuous failure. And they could be right. Failure does usually lead to another failure. But it can also help you build and improve, if you learn to embrace it and use it to your advantage.
Fear of failure doesn’t only exist in personal life – it also exists in business, where it often means great losses of time and money, and it leads to lack of innovation. In ever changing market conditions, where competition is tighter and the market is overcrowded with various products and solutions, failure is a harsh reality many organizations face. Innovation doesn’t happen overnight and creating new things requires many attempts, lengthy periods of testing, pivoting, adjustments and learning. And it is right here where the ability to embrace failure comes to play and it becomes the sole culprit that separates the winner from the loser.
The end or new opportunity?
There are endless ways to fail. One can fail because he didn’t even try, one because he was working on a bad idea. Or maybe he didn’t execute it well. Maybe he wasn’t brave enough to adapt to change soon enough or failed to see the bigger picture. Or maybe he was surrounded with people who weren’t skilled enough to help him succeed in his attempt. But, as Thomas Edison, one of America’s most well-known innovators, said, there are no failures – only learning opportunities: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” He was referring to ability to embrace failure – to use it to your advantage, view it as a learning opportunity and a boost we often need to keep trying until we succeed. Let’s have a look at three reasons why failure should be embraced.
Failure makes you stronger
There are only two outcomes to an attempt – or so we’re used to think: if you get what you worked for, you’re a winner, if you don’t – you’re a failure. But the time has come to rethink failure. A negative result of an endeavor shouldn’t be seen as a waste of money and hours of work. Companies – and people – should use it as a mean that provides advantages we wouldn’t gain otherwise. First step in this should be accepting the failure, followed by collecting the feedbacks, asking questions from quality-driven people and peers to avoid same happening in the future. This would, in addition, help you understand your limitations, give you time to reflect and provide you with an opportunity for an honest self-confrontation. It would give you time to understand your strengths and weaknesses and help you become a stronger player. In today’s world humility is a major strength. Pride and ego, on the other hand, can drag you in a never-ending cycle of failure.
Helps you learn and make better decisions
Unsuccessful attempt should always be seen as a lesson learned. It should give you an extra push to improve, search for new solutions and new ways of achieving your goal. What you shouldn’t do, is swipe the failure under the carpet, start the blame game or act is if never happened. What is very important, is also accepting the feedback. Ignoring the feedback can backlash you big time – create a culture of mistrust, toxic environment and lead to lack of communication and loss of motivation for innovation. As researchers Mark Cannon and Amy Edmonds said, failures should be detected and addressed early to avoid catastrophic failures. Mistakes need to be acknowledged and seen as learning opportunities – and this is the only way to start moving in the right direction.
Failure allows you to take more risks
Once you experience failure and embrace it, you will realize you survived and that will give you courage to take greater risks. It will also make success taste better as you will now know how failures taste and how much effort was put into climbing up the ladder. Accepting failure helps move past disappointments and rethink the way we see failure. In the end, failures can indeed be good and embracing them can help you overcome fear of failure, accomplish your goal with learning what your weaknesses are, knowing what you should do to avoid a failure next time.
Failure as a part of innovation culture in SAFe®
SAFe® (Scaled Agile Framework for Enterprises®) rigorously supports continuous learning culture in which individuals – and enterprises as a whole – are encouraged to continually increase knowledge, competence, performance and innovation by committing to relentless improvement and promoting a culture of innovation. Employees are, among other, encouraged and enabled to explore and experiment with new ideas, create improvements to processes and remove impediments to productivity.
An innovation culture, that is the heartbeat of continuous learning culture, can only exist in organizations, where leaders create an environment that supports creative thinking, curiosity and challenging status quo. It embraces the idea that conducting experiments designed to progress iteratively towards a goal is the most effective path to learning that creates successful breakthroughs. But in order for innovation culture to exist, it requires an environment where failure is broadly accepted and feedback welcome, as it depends on learning from experiments and incorporating those insights into future exploration. More about innovation culture, embracing failure and relentless improvement that comes with it can be found in article Continuous Learning Culture from Scaled Agile, Inc.