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Another topic that was getting much coverage at last week’s Spark the Change conference was that of failing, failure and the ability to learn from getting things wrong.

As I wrote a few weeks ago I wonder if a substantial part of the problem which faces organisations in allowing people to do things that don’t work out without persecution is because of how culturally loaded the word “fail” is. Better, surely, to reframe it in a way that takes that sting out (for example “We have successfully shown this is not giving the results we need”) than trying to redefine the meaning of such a pejorative term?

It also struck me that for all of the talk about failing fast and failing often, we do need to keep an eye on the fact that sometimes failure is just that – a failure. In this recent blog post apenwarr describes the ability to post-rationalise anything as “the curse of smart people”. This has brought home that I’m not that smart – I suffer from imposter syndrome as much as the next under-qualified fool.

But I wonder whether sometimes there is a need to be able to, when it’s appropriate, step forward with hands up and simply say “I fucked up”. There’s a big difference between an educated, or even wild, guess at doing something new, and a plain and simple balls-up. Maybe we need to demonstrate that humility once in a while.


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