Sunday, June 30, 2013

Celebrating Failures

Being a passionate design thinker I am a big believer in failing fast and failing often. I have taken this one step further; I celebrate one failure every week. Here's why:

You get more comfortable looking for failures, analyzing them, and learn from it

I have sat through numerous post-mortem workshops and concluded that the root causes of failures are usually the same: abstract concepts such as lack of communication, unrealistic scope, insufficient training, and so on. If that’s true, why do we repeat the same mistakes, causing failure to remain a common situation? Primarily because many people find it hard to imagine and react to abstractions, but can relate much better when these concepts are contextualized into their own situation. Post-mortem of a project would tell you what you already suspected; it's hindsight and it's a little too late. I have always advocated a "pre-mortem workshop" to prepare for a failure in the beginning. Visualize all the things that could go wrong by imagining that the project has failed. This gives the team an opportunity to proactively look at risks and prepare to prevent and mitigate them.

Failures just like successes become nothing more than events with different outcomes

A failure or a success is nothing but an event. Just like sports you put in your best effort and still fail because you control your efforts, dedication, and passion but not the outcome. While it is absolutely essential to analyze mistakes and make sure you don't repeat them but in some cases, looking back, you would not have done anything differently. When you look at more failures more often they do tend to become events with different outcomes as opposed to one-off situations that you regret.

It changes your attitude to take more risk because you are not afraid of outcome

When failures are not a one-off event and you are anticipating and celebrating it more often it changes how you think about many things, personally as well as professionally. It helps you minimize regret and not failures.

I don't want to imply failure is actually a good thing. No one really wants to fail and yet failure is the only certainty. But, it's all about failing fast, failing often, and correct the course before it's too late. Each failure presents us with an opportunity to learn from it. Don't waste a failure; celebrate it.

About the picture: I took this picture inside the Notre Dame in Paris. I see lights as medium to celebrate everything: victory of good over evil as celebrated during the Hindu festival Diwali and a candlelight vigil to show support and motivate people for a change.


Ben said...

Good stuff. I believe in order to create a culture of failure, you have to create a culture of 'experiments'. If you fail on a deliverable that others are dependend on, then that's bad.
If you have a couple of experiments running and you fail and actually write down a couple of learnings, then that's good.

I know an entrepreneur who introduced celebration of failure into Signapore's innovation agenda. He introduced an award for it even. Should connect the two of you - benboeser

Chirag Mehta said...

Thanks Ben! Would love to know more about this and connect to the entrepreneur.