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Allowing Failure

By Ben Kubicek,

Today we have a guest editorial as Steve is on vacation.

I was reading a forum post from Jeff Moden on allowing people to fail. I thought he made some good points and wanted to probe this topic further.

For those of you that have children, I think allowing them to fail is one of the hardest things you can experience in life. Often we don’t allow it. We change the situation or the rules so our children don’t experience failure. Yet, we and they can learn things from failure. Good things, that can help us in the future if we let them.

It can be similar at work. We have projects, people, systems we have invested our lives in. They are sometimes, kind of like our baby. We don’t want to see them fail. I am not suggesting we should allow major systems to fail or allow data corruption on a production server. Still, sometimes people do make choices that in our opinion are not wise and will not work. In some cases, the best thing to do might be to allow things to take their natural course, which may lead to failure.

So why can failure be a good thing? In the case of our children, it gives them a chance to build up their determination and try again. Success can be so much more sweet when you failed the first time around. It is important to learn from our mistakes. To heed advice, and perhaps listen better when someone suggests we are making a bad decision.

It can be similar at work. Sometimes you just have to try something before you realize it isn’t a good idea. Nobody likes to be told, “I told you so,” but they might listen to you in the future if you communicate yourself in a positive way. A failure event may be the only thing that changes the direction management is trying to lead you.

I believe it is also important to allow ourselves to fail. To take risks with new or old technology, to try new things. It doesn’t mean they need to be released to production, but if we don’t risk failure we can miss out on great gains by not dreaming and reaching for something more.

I hope the next time you are in a meeting and you are sure this new idea or plan is doomed to failure, that you pause. That you consider if allowing failure is a good choice in this situation. Perhaps like Jeff’s situation, you will be proven right and you will get new hardware out of the deal. Share a time you allowed someone or something to fail and share how it ended up.

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