“Celebrate failure” is the fairly conventional wisdom. But offices that do it right are as mythical as unicorns. We don’t live in a culture that readily accepts failure.
I mean, Steve Jobs was once fired by Apple. Need I say more?
But failure is critical. It shows us where our edges are. It’s impossible to be on the cutting edge without going over the edge once in a while. More importantly, failure is the natural result of bold effort. Timid people don’t innovate.
It’s important to work systematically to create a culture where failure is not just tolerated, but celebrated.
- Fix your office culture: Changing a mindset requires regular effort. Solicit stories about failure, and make it clear that failure is a good sign. Have a weird hat or an old trophy lying around? As it makes its way from desk-to-desk, it can be a regular reminder that failure is good, even when it’s maybe a little embarrassing.
- Make it a competition: Daily affirmations are nice and all, but real prizes are better. Maybe a once-a-year celebration around the time of the Ig Nobel Prizes can become an annual ritual in your office. There’s nothing like a major award to help people see the humor in things.
- Treat your shop like Vegas: Failure is good, but personal failure can be painful. Keep the stories in the family. What happens in your shop, stays in your shop until you have a success your whole team can show to the world.
Every day, no matter what, you are getting better or you’re getting worse. The only way anyone improves is by taking risks, accepting the failures that come from them, and then trying again. If you can’t tell me about your failures, I’m not going to believe your stories about success.