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Learn From Failure
Learning leaders should not be scared of failure — they should embrace it. Not doing so could quell the potential for innovation and increased performance.
The practice of learning from failure is deeply engrained in the human experience. For instance, when learning to walk, children fall, and fail, many times before those mini failures translate into success. Children might prop themselves up and fall; do it again, take one step, and fall; try one more time, take two steps, and fall again. They try. They fail. They learn. They succeed.In business, the practice of learning from failure is not as straightforward, but it is equally vital. While many organizations say they spend copious amounts of time and effort learning from the successes and failures of their people, businesses and practices, many learning practitioners and management academics say there is still much progress to be made. Aside from the psychological distaste associated with human failure, one of the larger barriers keeping more corporations from embracing it as an engine for learning is rooted in organizational culture. Creating a culture where failure isn’t the goal but is treated as a learning driver remains an uphill battle for many, said Amy C. Edmondson, professor of leadership and management at the Harvard Business School. The most frequent gaffe organizations make is equating perfection with good performance.“The biggest mistake we make is thinking we’re not supposed to make mistakes,” said Edmondson, who wrote an April 2011 research article on the topic for the Harvard Business Review.In an era where innovation — a growth driver largely founded on experimentation and failure — is an organization’s biggest tool for growth, believing failures are always bad would be a mistake.
Instead, learning leaders should look for areas where calculated failures will bear dividends — both individually, in terms of leadership development, and organizationally — as a means to spark innovation, growth and organizational performance. Further, organizations and learning leaders need to learn to cultivate a more sophisticated understanding of failure’s uses and contexts; doing so will help avoid what Edmondson called the “Blame Game,” (see sidebar) where organizations inaccurately assess failures, and therefore improperly assign blame.
The Next Generation of HR: What’s Wrong? What’s Right?
May 23rd 1:00pm - 2:00pm CT
2013 CLO Breakfast Club, Boston
September 12th - 12th, 2013The Westin Copley Place
Fall 2013 CLO Symposium
September 30th - October 2nd, 2013Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa
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