Successful Failure

Every day we strive for success. We work, study, negotiate and network to realize our dreams. Unfortunately, the goals we desire can sometimes fall in a dismal heap. How we manage that failure and what we learn from it, can play an integral role in our future success.

Some of the most profitable businesses and inventions have bloomed from a perceived failure. When Spencer Silver couldn’t get the formula right for a strong adhesive, a work colleague took that failure and applied it to a piece of paper. Thus, the Post-it Note was born. Penicillin, champagne, the pacemaker, and the icecream cone are all examples of someone’s failure at one project that resulted in the success of something bigger and better.

What failure does is offer insight. It’s an opportunity to reassess strategies and processes. For example, a consultant with ten years experience books a hotel in the wrong city and the mistake isn’t discovered until the clients arrive at their destination. It’s easy to finger-point and lay blame, a common knee-jerk reaction when something goes wrong. But there may be a valid underlying reason as to how this mistake was made and by taking a step back and reassessing the situation, a great deal of knowledge can be gained and used to avoid future failings.

Perhaps the consultant was overwhelmed by an increased workload. If this is so, then what can you do to minimise the chances of this happening again? Does the booking process need adjustments and a new check-list implemented? If the mistake is due to stress caused by a problematic relationship in the workplace or personal life, what can you do to help ease the pressure so the consultant can perform to their highest ability?

From the consultant’s failure to handle a booking perfectly, you have the opportunity to examine your business from a few different angles. You could look at your overall operational plan, training and even the way staff are managed. Not only is this a chance to fix a specific problem, you have the chance to identify other areas that need attention and put procedures in place to minimize potential problems.

One thing to keep in mind though, is some failures are not a direct result of something going wrong. Sometimes it could be a matter of bad timing in the marketplace or circumstances beyond your control, such as an economic downturn. What these experiences can do is help you finetune your analytical thinking and develop contingency plans for future developments like this.

Moving up and beyond failure greatly depends on how we look at a situation. Wallowing in the corner feeling glum won’t change anything. But taking a long, hard look at how a situation came to be, then putting practices into place so it won’t happen again, is the secret to changing short-term failure into long-term success.

If you can, cast your mind back to when you first learned to ride a bike. No doubt there were a few hairy moments, many scrapes and bruises, but you got back up and kept trying. You probably had to think of new ways to shift your body so the bike balanced and eventually you took off, peddling down the street with the wind in your hair and bugs on your teeth. How did it feel? Overcoming failure in business can bring about that same joy.

People who are successful are the ones who learn from their mistakes and try again. Moving on from failure reflects strength, rather than weakness, of a person or business. This is difference between being like the competitors or rising above and turning your agency into a forward thinking, progressive business. Failure can

mean success.

Final thought: Think of a business or person who has weathered a failure and moved on to success from that experience. What can you learn from their journey that you can apply to your own?