Rethinking Failure

Failure. A word loaded with emotional baggage. In the moment, many of us fear failure and what it means to us professionally and personally. For most of us, it’s only in reflecting back on the situation that we’re able to gain perspective.

Ed Catmull was a presenter at #TrueNorth18, and during his keynote he stressed the importance of rethinking failures. “We need to rethink failures,” he argued. “There’s danger around failure and it’s deeply ingrained in us. It’s almost impossible to separate them emotionally, and we need to be aware of both. But, if we agree that failure is the necessary consequence of doing something new, then we need to separate learning from failure and the danger around failing.”

Often, clients contact us when they’re feeling the pain of failure. They’re in the weeds still and are having difficulty seeing past the pressing issue or even see the learning moment. So, what do we do? Offer perspective.

When a client reaches out to us, the first thing we do is listen. Then we ask some questions and listen some more. We reach out to the client, their customers and the general public. Why? To gain a broad perspective.

This is key to helping refocus a failure into a learning opportunity. It equips us with the information we need to provide clients with the strategic solutions they’re after. After all, you need to be open to things that don’t work (aka failures) in order to make progress.

As Catmull reminds us, “changing culture is an in the trenches experience.” But, you don’t have to be in the trenches alone. Tell us what failure (or fear of failure) is holding you back, and we’ll help guide you through.

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