Saturday, August 14, 2010

Learning by failing

At conferences you generally only hear about success. We learn from good examples. Sometimes however the sound of success can have the opposite effect, especially when you're working on a project that is stuck in the mud. It might be useful to hear about all the ideas and projects that didn't make it and try to understand why they failed.

That's why I was intrigued by an article called Failing in public -- one way to talk openly about (and learn from) 'failed' projects on the World Bank blog EduTech. It tells of a recent conference FAILfare in Washington DC where delegates presented projects that went wrong and tried to analyse why. An excellent idea since to err is human and by discussing our shortcomings we can work out strategies for succeeding later.

As the conference organisers put it:
"Sharing success stories and case studies, while helpful, isn’t enough. Talking openly and seeing where we have failed may help us learn, make better decisions, and avoid making the same mistakes again."

I feel we have become so focused on positive thinking and success that talking of failure and problems has become almost a taboo. I've listened to many speeches by extremely successful people who have climbed Everest, sailed solo round the world, built up companies and won gold medals but I can't say I have really learned much from them. They're simply too far away from my world. But listening to people who grapple with the more mundane challenges that I deal with can certainly inspire me since I can directly relateto them. You can't really win in life unless you have experienced failure and maybe by sometimes allowing ourselves to focus on faults we can learn from them.

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