Thursday, April 04, 2013

Failing in Order to Succeed. Part 3

Failing is never really fun. Admitting it is even less fun. Although there is a move afoot to see failure as an opportunity to learn, it’s easier said than done. This 3-part article seeks to provide a provocative perspective on how to think about learning from unintentional failure through the use of evidence, information and knowledge (EI&K).

Part 1
Part 2

Failing in order to succeed: Part 3

Reaping the wild wind of failure

By Lorri Zipperer

Lorri Zipperer
Zipperer Project Management
Albuquerque, NM
Copyright 2013

The ability for organisations to reap the benefits of this unique skill concentration is, alas unrealized at this time. Librarians and other information experts must understand their organisation’s culture to apply this expertise to enrich its learning from failure. An appreciation of the depth of what really happened rather than taking a more superficial or cursory approach is required for EI&K to genuinely be used to realize system-oriented learning after a stumble.

The real loss is when failures replicate: both within the same organisation and amongst those who need to learn from the experiences of others. For example, when failures in medical care occur, an awareness of that incident is thought to help minimize its occurrence elsewhere. “It won’t happen here” mentality, problem denial and ignorance, and “doesn’t apply to me so it’s not useful” approaches can scuttle chances to learn from the misfortune of others. True tragedy can occur. Such blockades can be breeched through effective evidence, information and knowledge sharing.

Next actions:

These apply to both organisational and individual “learning from failure” commitments

·       Design time to reflect on what was done well and what could have been improved into processes. If the habit of thinking about and discussing failure as a learning opportunity is hardwired in to projects throughout their lifetime, the tougher ones that result in delay, disruption and disaster will be more effectively and expertly dealt with.

·       Dig deep to get to the second story of failure / avoid blame and look at problems from a systems view

·       Walk the talk: practice at home, at school, at social events. Lots of little failures happen often so they’ll be plenty of opportunities to hone the skills.

·       Review additional reading and discuss what is provocative with others.

Additional reading:

Choo CW. Information failures and organisational disasters. Sloan Management review. Spring 2005;8-10.

Edmondson A. Strategies for learning from failure. Harvard Business Review. April 2011;89:48-55.

"Brilliant Mistakes": Finding Opportunity in Failures. Knowledge@Wharton

Zipperer, L. A future in failure? You bet. SLA 365 blog. Dec, 2011

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