Friday, April 8, 2016

Failure modes

How do we fail? Let me count the ways
  • In the beginning, say the first Egyptian pyramid project, failure wasn't even talked about. If it happened, you just disappeared, and someone took your place -- properly incentivized not to repeat your experience
  • Advance a few millenniums and we arrive at "Failure is Not an Option". In this model, something -- anything -- that yields a strategically successful outcome is acceptable. It need not look anything like the intended
  • Advance a few decades and we get "You're allowed to fail"  followed closely by "Fail early!". In this model risk is a recognized and accepted partner to innovation, although certain contributors are not acceptable: incompetence, laziness, and recklessness to name three.  However, arrogance and eccentric behaviours are tolerated
  • Now, in present time, we arrive at "Fail early; fail hard" which morphs to "Fail Upward!" which we learn is something of an art. It's even advanced to the point of having a blog stream on Medium and, separately, a conference to learn how fail with success (if that is not an oxymoron)
So, what do we make of "fail upward"?  That's where you advance your career and your fortunes by having demonstrated an ability to "fail early; fail hard", a recognized elixir of the successful -- in the end, anyway -- strategic outcome. But, of course, it takes a second party -- someone with deep pockets -- that recognizes your talent. You can't be a loner and successfully fail -- it's a team sport.

Indeed, we learn from essayist Kate Losse, these insights:
Thanks, in part, to a playlist of TED talks on the productivity of failure, the dictum to “fail harder, fail faster” is now being peddled in fields from scientific research to elementary education.

Consider recently published books like Stuart Firestein’s “Failure: Why Science Is So Successful” and Jessica Lahey’s “The Gift of Failure,” which argues that children today occupy such risk-scrubbed environments that opportunities for failure must be manufactured.

At AltSchool, in Silicon Valley, where pre-K tuition is $27,000 a year, modeling failure is part of the curriculum"
Summary: Failure is an option!!

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