Not too long ago Harvard Business Review published an interesting article about failure. It was written by Amy Edmondson and is titled 'Strategies For Learning From Failure' (April 2011). I'm not going to summarize the article for you (this time). But it's pack with great insights and learning points. For instance it explains how we are programmed to think that all failure is bad, what different types of failure there are (good and bad ones), how organizations can embrace failure and how leaders can build a safe environment for failure.
I found the last point most interesting. I think embracing failure is a personal decision. In this case you are the leader. But leaders can also get others to open up and fail more safely. This article give a couple of steps to create this environment, I'd like to list them here:
- employees must learn to understand the different kinds of failure that can be expected and why openness and collaboration are important for surfacing and learning from them
- reward those that come forward with bad news, questions or mistakes.
- be open about what you don't know
- promote intelligent experiments, ask for employees to detect and analyze failures
- employees feel paradoxically safer when leaders are clear about what acts are blameworthy and there must be consequences