is right. The only way to avoid failure
is to do nothing. But failure has virtues, and is probably impossible to avoid (Indeed, doing nothing is a form of failure too).
There is no learning
without failure. No creativity without
failure. That is why Jeff Pfeffer and I argue that the best single diagnostic question
you can ask about an organization is: What
Happens When People Fail? As
research on creativity
and learning shows (see this
story on the “July effect” in study by Robert
Huckman and Jason Barro of 700 hospitals
over 8 years – mortality rates went up 4% when the new residents came in), it
is impossible to do anything new or learn anything new without making mistakes.
Diego and I, in teaching our first d.school class on Creating Infectious Action, initially tried to put too pretty a face on failure. We talked to the class about treating everything as a prototype, which we believe in strongly. We preached bout failing forward, failing early and failing often, and used a a host of other pretty words to talk about the good things that happen when things go badly. Yet these is no denying that going down a failed path is still no fun, even if it is a short journey. So after out students --- under our guidance – were especially unsuccessful at promoting a hip-hop concert (despite trying very hard, look at this cool poster one team made), we realized that the most honest thing to do was to deal with our feelings of disappointment, to talk about how much it sucked to have such a lousy outcome, and then turn to the learning.
There is a silver lining, however, although it hurts, there is evidence that people think more deeply and learn more after a failure than a success.
Homer might not like the thinking part.