Saturday, May 19, 2012

Learning from failure

We learn by failing. Sometimes by failing again and again till we eventually get it right. Many of us give up after a couple of attempts but those who don't are often the ones who learn new things and create new solutions. I'm as guilty as anyone at giving up all too easily. It's tough when your great idea falls flat on its face and colleagues say "I told you so" or remind you that you have to live in the "real" world and accept that we don't do things like that round here. But new ideas almost never work first time, new technology always has problems and we need to learn to understand the process of innovation instead of expecting instant success every time.

When talking about using technology in education I often hear people say that they tried a particular tool or method but it didn't work as expected and as a result was discarded. Sometimes the technology isn't really up to the mark yet and sometimes the user has not fully understood it. The trick is to have the patience to learn a bit more, try again or look for alternatives that work better for you. Sometimes you need to change the way you work to be able to use an innovation effectively. Often people use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail and then say that the screwdriver is a useless hammer. Often we expect to learn a new tool without any effort and get frustrated when it doesn't work as expected rather than putting in a bit more time to read the instructions first. Not everything is intuitive. Learning involves changing habits, mindset or both.

We learn to fear failure instead of learning from it. When we're under pressure to perform there's no room to take chances so we play safe. However if we can overcome this fear then we could achieve so much more and maybe one of the main differences between creative, innovative people and the rest of us is their ability to keep trying.

To illustrate this have a look at this inspiring TED talk by inventor Regina Dugan, Why we should never fear failure. As she says, "We can’t both fear failure and make amazing new things."

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