Failing Forward?

What is the definition of failing forward? 

First, learning from failure, and second, taking action steps to move forward. John Maxwell’s “Fail Forward” and Ryan Babineaux/John Krumboltz’s “Fail Fast, Fail Often” are great resources for this topic. What happens, though, when you are in a risk-averse environment or your leader fears failure? Likely, failing forward is not tolerated; it may not be said in words but is demonstrated in action. 

The plain fact is we live in a society that does not tolerate failure, where judgment leads before compassion. So why are we reading so many articles or quotes about failing forward?

It is because how we work is changing. Tolerance, compassion, emotional intelligence, experiential learning, and training are expected from our employees, clients, community, and children.

Imagine a world where failing by learning was accepted and encouraged. It took Thomas Edison six thousand tries of materials to succeed in the innovation of the light bulb, and what a success it was and is today. So, this is not a new concept, yet we have moved so far away from this practice that it is costing us. The cost is employee retention, lack of innovation, limited leadership skillset, high cost in turnover, and the lack of sustainability. 

At this time of changing how we work, where we work, and developing new skillsets, experiential learning is the key to success.

The following are action steps to take today:

  1. What is your definition of success? What is your definition of failure? Do they support one another, or are they in conflict? Explore, experiment, and discover your true definitions.
  2. What is your risk tolerance in failing? Review these four areas: work, relationship, money, quality of life (spirituality, health, joy, happiness, etc.)
  3. Have a discussion with your leader on their philosophy of failure and learning. Do their words match their action? 
  4. How do you show up when you fail? How do you model failure? How do you take care of yourself during success or failure?

Remember failing forward is learning with an action plan.