We were all taught from childhood and beyond that we need triumph over adversity and succeed through failure.
It is a central tenet of what we learn in business.
“Fail Fast” . . .
I am sure you have, like me, been fascinated by the stories of superhuman tenacity from living legends like Michael Jordan.
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Those at the top of their game often allude to how many times they failed before finding success. There is even an array of literature, TED Talks and events poised to teach aspirational workers how to fail better, with one book coined “Failosophy”.
But a recent article in Management Today stopped me in my tracks.
“Stop assuming employees learn from failure”!
Contrary to the common notion that failure is a great teacher, recent research shows that it undermines learning.
This may be counter-intuitive, but I suspect there are two different responses based on personality types. I do see children and adults who struggle to deal with life’s little (and large) failures . . . There may be better ways to help . . .
Academics argue that “people may not always learn from failure because it negatively impacts self-esteem, threatening the ego”.
A study found that people tune in and learn from failure when the ego is removed from the situation.
In other words, the best way to learn from failure is to learn from someone else’s failure.
I think they call that schadenfreude 😉
So maybe we need to adjust our approach for different personality types?
Whilst an individual may not learn from their own mistake, unpacking it may provide others with useful information to take away. If we try to remove the ego from failure, maybe we can turn failure into a source of confidence.
By inviting colleagues to draw on their failures to advise similarly struggling peers, it may shift their mindset to someone who possesses, as opposed to lacks, know-how.
It seems that we need to discuss failure and “improvement opportunities” in a way that strokes the ego rather than bashes it.
In building and developing teams and driving for success, this is worth thinking about.
Thanks for reading . . .