Oops! FailureFailure is such a loaded experience and usually very negative.  However, we all make mistakes and they have varying repercussions on our businesses. But could you ignore failure?

We had the pleasure of welcoming our guest host, Taylor Davidson (@tdavidson) to this week’s #kaizenblog Twitter chat,  “Ignore Failure At Your Own Peril”. My co-host, Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge) and I got curious about some of Taylor’s ideas about failure and how to learn from it. Taylor set the stage for this conversation with his framing post, “Ignore Failure At Your Own Peril” with the premise that the “seeds of success” lie in the experience of failure.

(Here is the Transcript for #kaizenblog – Failure)

So, we started in with the first question, What are the temptations of ignoring failure?

  • Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO) answered, “Invidious comparison. Ego. We want to win, be perceived as winners by others.”
  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) was succinct, “~FEAR OF PAIN”
  • Jeff Gibbard )@jgibbard) observed, “I think we are conditioned to fear failure vs embrace it.”
  • Meg Fowler (@megfowler) added, “If you ignore failure, you rob yourself of the refinement process essential to success.”

Following these answers about the temptations, everyone started to describe what accompanies failure in business. Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum) observed that, in business, failure is often not really examined due to a “competitive market and a less than nurturing environment.” On the other hand, Stephen Denny reminded us that “learning from failure requires detachment – separate failure from ego/person. Other inputs helpful, too.” This theme was picked up by others and yet, Marc Meyer (@Marc_Meyer) seemed to add a cautionary tone that “there is ‘failure’ and then there is ‘failure’ -To me, 2 entirely different things. But both should be motivators.” Could there be distinctions between one failure and another?

It is hard to shake off failure. And culture can play a part in this as well. A more interesting question was whether or not  to even use the word, failure. Some tweets suggesting finding other words with less intense nuances to describe failure. Taylor shared a link with us, “The Failure of Failure” Different types of failure seemed to bring different levels of avoidance. How did this experience get verboten in business (at least in the U.S.)? Inventors fail constantly. Scientists experience it on a regular basis when their researdch yields any result other than the one desired.  Maybe Eric Fulwiler (@EFulwiler) has something when he commented, “[e]xcept failure denotes a loss of some kind. You can mitigate losses and take away positives, but still loss…” Are we training ourselves to avoid feeling loss?

But whether we feel loss or fear of how others may view us, there are times when things just go badly. How do you know when a project is going bad and  is unsalvageable? While Stephen Denny reminded us that we use our judgement based on data to end a bad project, Sian Phillips (@whatswhat_sian) considered, “I don’t think that it can be universally answerable. Each project/job is different. But you should know when it is going bad.” Meg Fowler added, “A2: there are different failure metrics for different actions/projects –no one way to know when things have gone awry.” Eric Tsai (@designdamage) boiled it down to “when all indicators pointing to a lack of motivation/ROI, dots not connecting, people stop caring.”

Towards the end, a theme emerged about listening to your gut. Could this be an opening for self-doubt, as Taylor observed? While this is possible, we’ve talked about doubt being useful on #kaizenblog. It was fascinating that there wasn’t any specific consensus about how much gut or even if using your gut was a good practice.

  • Laura Crum “I think gut is probably built from observations we lack the vocabulary to define.”
  • Joe Crockett (@JoeCrockett) “You can’t just rely on your gut. Relying on your gut says that you’ve abdicated URself from objective data and reasoning.”
  • Alfonso Guerra @Huperniketes) ” ‘Gut’ is the internalization of both metrics and the indicators of our environment.”

So maybe our gut reactions and instincts could be  biases in our thinking or acts of arrogance but they do also provide us with a consciousness that something is present. In failure, it could be an inkling of a solution or it could the beginnings of how understand not to repeat bad decisions.

Overall, it seemed that ignoring failure is perilous for businesses but that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen anyway. The experience of failure challenges us to examine our organizational and personal systems which could reveal us in a negative light. If we are surrounded by messages that failure is not allowed, we are likely to repeat previous misjudgements and mistakes. Is the cost worth it? Would acknowledging failure and keeping the review process focused on the actions rather than the character of the person make a difference? This chat seemed to leave us with more questions than answers so please add your comments.

 How dangerous is it to ignore failure?

 Is failure just too loaded for businesses to use it productively?