Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Celebrating Failure

This is not a challenge to anyone who works in TQM. One of my favorite people and role-models, my cousin Mike, is an efficiency expert, employing linear math to optimize supply chain management so, I appreciate six sigma and endorse the opportunities inherent in continuous improvement.

I just think in the face of a respect for efficiency and safety, it would be a good idea to appreciate the beauty found in failing.

I might be writing this simply because I received my performance review two days ago and am hoping this past year's failures are pregnant with potential. Pondering the possibilities within failure helps me modulate my depressive tendencies.

Businessweek ran a great story a couple of years ago entitled
“Eureka, we Failed” where they posited the theory that innovation cannot happen without the necessary embrace of failure.

They state,
"Getting good at failure . . . doesn't mean creating anarchy out of organization. It means leaders -- not just on a podium at the annual meeting, but in the trenches, every day -- who create an environment safe for taking risks and who share stories of their own mistakes. It means bringing in outsiders unattached to a project's past. It means carving out time to reflect on failure, not just success."

One of the cultural practices they recommend is throwing “failure parties” where a team, that has taken a risk for the sake of innovation, shares the narrative of their failure with the organization and communicates the lessons learned. The benefits are humility, honesty and awareness.

This type of thinking seems helpful, almost necessary.
There's a lot of destruction going on right now that might be creative if we realize that perfection is our enemy and failure our friend.

I think it is time we abrogate the proverbial encouragement to good behavior and re-write it for our common good, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”

I know I work in a pressure-filled environment where I try to manage the perception of perfection but, the reality is that life is a creative art and creativity is an imperfect pursuit.

Again, the BW article,

"Most people naturally seek positive outcomes and set about trying to prove that an experiment works. But designers, inventors, and scientists, all models for companies struggling to be more creative, take the opposite tack. They try to prove themselves wrong.”

And hell, if you hate this post, prove me wrong. I'd appreciate the failure.