Have you ever been afraid to try something new? To give your opinion during a meeting? To suggest a new idea to your group? Many of us are familiar with that little inner voice that tells us it is better to do nothing than to risk failure. Let’s change the narrative on what it means to fail. By looking at some real life examples of failure, we can begin to see how it can be a tool and excellent motivator for change, progress and growth.
To reframe is when we switch our thinking from “failure is bad and should be avoided at all cost”, to “I need to fail in order to succeed”. It is what we learn when we make mistakes that open up possibilities and allow for true growth.
Celebrity Chef and Restaurateur, David Chang has embraced failure over the course of his long and celebrated career. In fact, he credits his success to failing over time. In an interview he did for Forbes, he said, “I want people to own their mistakes and to just go for it—really great flavour comes from the failure.”
If we think about it from that perspective, failure is a necessary part of growth and innovation. It is only when we push ourselves to take risks and go outside of our comfort zone that we have the opportunity to progress. However, it is not just up to the individual to take risks and make mistakes. There are ways we can foster a culture of acceptance and progress in the workplace, and that takes the whole team.
How to embrace failure in the workplace:
- Strive to foster a culture rooted in trust – when we are in a safe environment and when we can trust our colleagues to not reject us, or our ideas, when we fail, then we are more likely to try to innovate and take risks. It is up to leaders and teams to create a culture where failure is not ridiculed and people are not ostracized when they fail.
- Fail early and fail fast – In the early stages of a project there is more opportunity to fail big, with smaller repercussions. Use these learnings to redirect the project and move towards a successful end goal.
- Lean into innovation and creativity. When we do this, we gain confidence in ourselves and our team. This will help guide us as we are presented with larger hurdles and bigger challenges further down the road.
- Learn from your failure – Our missteps can guide us and help us avoid bigger problems in the future.
- Embrace failure – The more we fail, the more we can combat our fear of failure.
Henry Ford said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, only more intelligently.” Now, when that inner voice tells us we are going to fail, let’s embrace it and see where it leads us.
For more information on how to manage our fear of failure, check out this article in the New York Times.