Magnificent Failures

I’ve just completed a magnificent failure. It was an online training session for a client. From my view it was Rome burning. It was painful. Made me realize how we learn things.

If you’re trying to improve anything you’re likely doing post postmortems. After-the-fact reviews of what went wrong when everything was supposed to go right.

The problem is most failures aren’t painful enough. There’s not enough motivation to dig in postmortems. We want to put mediocre failures behind us quickly. Move on to the next chance for greatness.

Wins don’t teach us either. We’re popping champagne corks and looking for the next victim.

Learning happens best with magnificent failures. They stop us in our tracks – force us to see our assumptions were 180 degrees from reality. They’re so painful we’re ready to do anything not to experience that train wreck again. They force us to look back at what we did , and rethink how to do it better.

I’m not recommending a steady diet of magnificent failures. If we did, we wouldn’t have a business and we’d want to end it all.

But by focusing on the “magnificent” part, failures are gifts. Insights into the reality around us. As painful as they are, they give us the chance to make things better.

What’s your most magnificent failure? What did you learn?

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Chris Arlen
President, Service Performance

Technorati: improvement, learning, management

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