What has been your greatest public or private failure? Have you ever considered that there are different types of failure? Amy Edmondson, a professor in leadership and management at Harvard Business School, has studied three different kinds of failures: preventable failure, complex failure and intelligent failure.
These last two types of failures have the greatest potential to promote and develop learning.
“Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional. We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right." -Jeff Bezos
What are the benefits of mentally reframing our failures?
Nobel Prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky found "that the effect of loss is twice as great as the gain from a win. This astounding conclusion indicates the great negative impact a loss has on us as individuals, which is much greater than the impact of a win. Thus, it explains why we as humans would go at lengths to avoid a loss or a failure."
People generally prefer to process failure internally. Moving quickly from the initial embarrassment of failing for fear of causing a scene, seeming unprepared, or unprofessional. A better way to process failure is to take the time to reflect and communicate about the experience. In private, public, and work spaces, this reflection can help establish an increasingly trusting, collaborative, and productive workplace. Discussing failure face-to-face is also more effective than discussing it through email or text. Having a verbal conversation creates the ability to "convey tone, body language, and other non-linguistic reactions" to help humanize the conversation. All of these elements could be lost if communicating digitally.
Sharing failures with friends and colleagues can even work in your benefit in some circumstances by increasing levels of so-called "benign envy". In comparison to malicious envy, benign envy works by raising both parties up rather than wanting to pull each other down. According to psychologist Jeremy Dean, PhD, benign envy:
1. Motivates you
2. Makes you feel good
3. Make you more creative, and
4. Makes you smarter
This humanizing experience can make you seem more approachable and relatable in many environments, including the workplace.
“If you’re having lunch with some of your peers, then revealing failure is a great strategy to induce levels of liking by reducing malicious envy,” Ms. Edmondson said.
"This teaches us that although failure can be painful and we as people we have developed an aversion to it, it actually can allow us to unlock great potential. But in order to do so, we have to change our mindset on failure. Instead of seeing it as something detrimental to success, we have to see it as a tool for success, a tool that helps us refine our path and allows us to learn what works and what does not. By doing so, we can see it as a normal part of the innovation of our own lives, not as something detrimental to life."
"One of the biggest secrets to success is operating inside your strength zone but outside of your comfort zone." -Ralph Heath, Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big
"The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure." -John C. Maxwell
Comments will be approved before showing up.