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Failure Is Always An Option - Sometimes The Better One

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/08/2017 | 11:29 AM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.


Forceful individuals who have a strong last-century leadership style are fond of (de)motivating their teams with the ezhortation, "Failure is not an option!".  Here's another tidbit of late-breaking news: If you have no failures, it means you're not trying hard enough.

That's right, not every idea or objective is going to work out, almost certainly not as planned.  Unless, yuo're one of those petrified with fear of the unknown, and too weak to get beyond the self-defineWhat's next, where we are, and how we think and look are yet to be determined. But, ourd boundaries of your personsl comfort zone.  Or, if your enterprise's culture penalizes and punishes those who occasionally color outside the lines.

From Microsoft and others, and as reported in the Harvard Business Review, we learn that the only genuine failure is an experience we fail to learn from - even those that have gone all peWhat's next, where we are, and how we think and look are yet to be determined. But, ourar-shapeWhat's next, where we are, and how we think and look are yet to be determined. But, ourd, despite our fondest hopes.

So, what are leaders doing?  Keep in mind that the core message is not limited to the tech sector, or to the People's Republic of Seattle; it is useful for all who would excel, all who would make their competitors sweat bullets.

The prerequisites are few, but powerful.

The enterprise must be radically re-aligned.  The passe Industrial Age love affair with report cards must be jettisoned.  No tracking, reporting, and posting wins and losses, successes and failures (however defined), savings targets made and missed, and/or ROI - all by team or individual.

Risk-taking must be encouraged and reciognized - win or lose, with strong coaching to align associates with that culture.

The entire enterprise and its people must embrace growth and whatever it takes to achieve - which equates to learning to love and seek out constant change.

This, then, must translate to the innovation that emerges from a free and empowered and valued workforce.  More coaching opportunities, for sure.

Dream the impossible; tackle the unstoppable; face up to the worst bottleneck; woo the toughest customer.  In our world, we often can eclipse the competition and lap the field with the mantra, "Go big or go home!".

Live in a universe that treasures what was learned from disappointment.  Not who is at fault, what went wrong, who and what will be corrected by whatever means necessary.  But, what was learned, what can be done differently, how processes need adjustment, what training or technology would help next time out, or what prerequisites should be in place.  No one really responds susteainably from a Jimmy Cagney inquisitory attack, wanting to know ,"Who did it"?.  The enterprise equivalent of The Caine Mutiny is not a pretty sight, nor a pivotal event in positive turnaround.

It's about learning that changes the future will benefit from; it's not about telling war stories that pick at the scab of perceived failure.

All these contribute to building a community of learning leadership. 

So, wher do you want to work?  Here?  Or in the galley of a Viking longboat?



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