Flirting with Failure

Steve Jobs’ name is synonymous with success. It would probably be hard to imagine that he was once fired from Apple for the development of several unsuccessful computers that cost millions of dollars to develop. He then went on to head up another endeavor with NeXT computers. Ever heard of them? Don’t worry, neither has anyone else. It was a huge failure until Apple bought the company in 1997, bringing Steve Jobs back into Apple computers and starting a comeback in business that would yield the invention of the iPod, iPad, and iPhone. Jobs was no stranger to failure, but by the end of his career he molded all the lessons he learned from those disappointments into great success.

What would happen if you left room for yourself or your employees to fail? What could be gained from this? Well, you can’t actually fail unless you’re doing something. It is a sign of effort. Many companies preach the ideology that failure is not an option. This breeds inactivity.  When employees are punished for taking a chance and trying something new, they can start to avoid trying anything new. This causes a stale work environment completely void of creativity and risk taking. No-failure zones also create pressure to break the rules and find shortcuts to avoid punishment, causing quality to suffer as well. It’s hard to be successful when your company fears failure. It’s like Thomas Watson, Founder of IBM, said, “Double your rate of failure, that’s where you will find success.”

Certainly not all failures should be celebrated, but simply taking the edge off can create a much healthier environment, especially when trying to break new ground. The next time you are met with failure, consider learning from the event and responding in a variety of ways:

  • Follow it with a “ta-da!”
  • Lead a conversation discussing what there is to learn from the experience
  •  Try something else: “That didn’t work! How about this?”

Promoting a creative workplace can help employees feel free to take a few chances in order to find new innovative solutions. You never know, you might even find yourself with an iPod of an idea.

Gray, Patrick. “The Power of Failing.” techrepublic. CBS Interactive, 4 Jan. 2012. Web. 17 July 2012.

Schulz, Nick. “Steve Jobs: America’s Greatest Failure.” National Review Online. N.p., 25 Aug. 2011. Web. 17 July 2012.

1 reply
  1. Amber
    Amber says:

    Saw these on FB today:
    “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

    “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison

    “You are not a failure if you don’t succeed, you are a failure if you don’t try.” – Unknown

    “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford


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