Thursday, 26 July 2012

You can't push the limits if you can't fail safely

In Organisational Learning, as in Climbing, nobody is going to push the limits unless there is some safeguard in the event of failure.

If the climber did not have a safety rope, then  ascents like this would never be attempted. And failure, in the climbing context, just shows how hard you are trying. OK, falling is embarrassing, and momentarily scary, but rarely kills you nowadays, unless you climb without a rope. And you learn from what you did wrong, get right back up there, and succeed the next time.

Similarly at work - you won't achieve anything new unless the fear of failure is removed. There need to be contingencies, and backup plans, and enough of a safe culture, and safe processes, that allow you to analyse the failure, learn from it, and succeed the next time.

If failure killed you, or your career, nobody would take a risk.


Kevin Jones said...

Offering a different view point, I believe that "you won't achieve anything new unless the fear of failure is removed" is incorrect. Almost NEVER will the fear of failure be removed. And if it is, it usually is not worth doing because it is so simple that it could be done by anyone.

To do great things we must worth with the fear of failure. That does not mean there is a complete lack of "safety rope" but we must take chances, take risks, be bold, even if we know we might fail. Waiting until all safety checks are in place will lead to inaction.

In fact, I believe that often those "safe cultures" and the "safe processes" are exactly the things we must take action against. They seem safe, but too often they are holding us and the company back from doing incredible things.

Nick Milton said...

Good points Kevin

I used to be a climber, and I can tell you, the fear of falling was always there!

However the rope made sure that falling was not fatal. Had it been, I would not have climbed in the first place.

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