Monday, July 20, 2015

Learning through failure

IngenuityI like noticing people's language and the words that they use, and I especially like to notice if those words are positive or negative. We tend to say "don't" rather than "do", and warn people away from possible failures. However, every successful inventor, project manager, entrepreneur, executive and business owner has failed at least once (if not multiple times). We remember people for their successes and forgot about all the failures which occurred first. We learn much more through our failures than through our success.

In his daily Intensely Positive email, Kelvin Ringold said:
Children don't know about failing; children just know about doing! Trying! Having fun! They don't know failure until we teach it to them. Well, actually they DO know failure, but they don't call it that when they're kids. They call it learning... playing... exploring...trying... experimenting... seeing what happens... being curious... wondering "what if?"
Notice the photo above. This was a failure - a child who got tired of biking - that was turned into a lesson and a success. These three generations learned a lot more through the failure than they would have through an initial success. Would you have used your belts this way?

As a digitization project manager, I learned much from the bumps that occurred in the projects. I learned more about the technology, the metadata, the budget, and all of the various processes. Every step backwards - or sideways - led to regrouping, learning and eventually a solid step forward. A wonderful saying is, "Retreat will move you forward" and I've found it to be very true.

Projects often teach you about your team, too. Does the team have the skills that it needs? Does the team have trust in each other? Are people willing to show initiative? Trust and initiative were topics which BJ Armstrong spoke on at the SLA Annual Conference. Trust/loyalty and initiative must be balanced with/against each other for it to work well. While we hope that people join the team with the correct skills, sometimes we need to stop and train people so that they have the skills for the job. In some instances, we may need to take people off the team and replace them with someone else, especially if there is no time to do the training. While those that leave the team may see it as a failure, I hope they see it as a call to continue to learn and a call to continue to invest in their own development.

Finally, failures teach each us about our own fortitude. Can we move on? Can we turn the failure into a future success? Rather than giving up, can we experiment, explore, try something different, and be curious? If yes, then we've already turned that failure into something positive.

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