It’s not surprising if you are tempted to label yourself a failure if you compare yourself and your own career trajectory to companies featured in articles as so-called overnight successes. Actually, though, failure can be one of the most profound and helpful stepping stones on the way to success. From your failures, you can learn valuable lessons that you wouldn’t have accessed any other way, and you and your employees can be inspired by stories of failure-turned-success.
Failures That Were Actually Successes
You’ve almost certainly been given antibiotics at some point in your life — But were you aware that all antibiotic treatment stems from an accident involving a messy lab? Scottish doctor Alexander Fleming was probably quite unhappy when he realized that all his experiments culturing Staphylococcus aureus had been contaminated by some penicillium mold. That failed experience, though, became the first step in the development of antibiotics.
The development of Post-It Notes, Silly Putty, pacemakers, and potato chips all stem from similar circumstances. They were all seemingly failures that turned out to be successes.
Changing Your Attitude About Failure
It’s rare to find the parent or teacher who gets excited when a child fails, so, not surprisingly, most people have grown up dreading failure. More surprisingly, it turns out that the brain thrives on failure. In fact, it actually gets bigger as it develops new neural pathways to deal with the trial and error involved in any failure.Yes, failure makes you smarter.
Think about what happens if you embrace this attitude toward failure in your own business. You’d be likely to let employees try new ventures, processes, and endeavors without worrying about what happens if things don’t work out. Now you’ve actually created an atmosphere in which creativity and innovation can thrive — and those employees are likely to experience far greater job satisfaction (and less daily anxiety) as a result.
Encouraging Your Employees Through Failure
A few key guidelines can help you encourage innovative failure in your business while keeping you safe from the kinds of catastrophes that could bring you down.
- Acknowledge that failure is part of the creative process, and let yourself (and your employees) to express a little bit of frustration when it occurs.
- Try new things yourself, and be transparent about your failures when they occur so that you can set an example for your employees.
- Take time to analyse why each failure occurred, and be completely honest about the reasons. After all, if you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’re doomed to repeat them.
- Minimize the potential effects of failure by encouraging employees to do trial runs of new ideas rather than making major commitments to them. That way you can get back on track quickly after any failures.
- Make each failure a learning opportunity, and encourage employees to write down what they learned.
- Create simulations and fictional scenarios to try out big ideas or difficult tasks (think about the way pilots learn in flight simulators before they’re put in the cockpit of an airplane).
A redefinition of failure that lets you learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward is a vital attitude that can encourage innovation and creativity in your workplace.