In an exclusive column for Business Leader, Gary Ashworth talks about the benefits of failure.
Failure is good, in fact it’s great. It tells you what doesn’t work and allows you to apply the right filter to embrace it and learn the lessons it teaches.
Embrace failure and welcome it as part of the learning process rather than be frightened of it.
People learn things faster from pain than pleasure. If you don’t believe me, just pop your hand in a fire and see for yourself. You (hopefully) won’t do it again.
When we’re kids, we don’t see failure as a bad thing, we call it experimentation.
That’s how we find out what we excel at academically, what type of sport we’re good at and that learning the violin maybe wasn’t such a good idea in the first place.
How else would you know?
When things go wrong in business or personally, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure, it just means you found another way “not to do” something.
The moment that making a blunder leads to not trying new things and we stop asking questions like “why do we do it that way? or “what would happen if? then the creative process ends, and we’re all doomed.
If you run a business or work in one where there’s a culture that punishes failure, don’t be surprised when few new ideas or suggestions emerge from the workforce and innovation stalls.
Failure leads to new ideas that lead to improvement. Improvement then leads to success. If you try lots of things and keep the ones that work, then you’ll be successful.
As Albert Einstein said, “A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.”
Everything that is worth doing in life has a risk. It’s how we learn. Children fall out of trees and adults fall of bicycles. Walkers get struck by lightning and houses burn down. It’s not a reason to stay in bed all day worrying.
The next time you mess up, remember, you’re in good company
Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and started a failed first business with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen called Traf-O-Data.
Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
Fred Astaire admitted to not being very good at the industry he was in. In his own words, “I can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.”
In his new book, Work Rules!, Google’s Head of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, states that, “It’s also important to reward failure” to encourage risk-taking. Making mistakes isn’t something that should be chastised, it’s something that should be positively encouraged. Small failures do not need to represent a crisis. They can be learning experiences that will nourish your business for years to come.
Learn to fail fast, though. Don’t keep making the same mistakes again and again whilst hoping for a different outcome.
The key judgement is to try things thoroughly enough to give them a chance of working, but shut them down, whatever the emotional of financial investment, once it’s become apparent that they won’t.
If you really are riding a dead horse, get off.