There are big failures like the Deep Water Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Fortunately, however, most failures don’t have stakes that are quite so high. In a recent post on Lifehacker, Jason Fitzpatrick suggests we bear that in mind and “embrace the inevitability of failure” to achieve higher levels of workplace productivity.
He notes that “when you abandon the stance that the mistake-maker is flawed and embrace the stance that mistakes are part of human cognition and everyone will make them, you can focus on productivity instead of scapegoating the mistake makers.”
This rings so true that I can feel myself breathe a bit easier just reading his words. I think of my experiences working with college writers to improve their papers at the KU Writing Center.
A lot of students who knew about our services for their entire time at KU would spend multiple semesters avoiding us before finally coming in. I absolutely understand this–coming in means admitting that one’s writing isn’t perfect.
Of course, the Writing Center staff approached this as a given and believed that no one’s writing–even (especially) our own–was perfect. Starting with this assumption allows space for improvement.
We didn’t blame the writers for imperfect grammar or disorganized drafts; we assessed what they needed and offered some assistance to make the paper better. As long as they were making an effort, we were right there with them to offer support and guidance.
What if we bring this idea into the workplace?
As long as we’ve put a good-faith effort into doing our best, we could embrace the inevitability that all of us will fall short sometimes. This would allow us to direct our attention to dusting ourselves off and moving forward with new information rather than stalling out on the self-flagellation that can accompany failure.
Are there flops and failures that have contributed productively to your skills and perspectives today? Have you helped your colleagues or your kids navigate through a failure and watched them come out stronger on the other side? Share your stories in the comments to helps us all embrace the possibility of failure and dive in anyway.