With so much talk of failure being a positive thing for business success in recent times, I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring and try to add my $0.02
What is fail/failure?The business community seem to have appropriated the internet-meme of using real-life situational failure pictures as entertainment (titling the images with the single word “FAIL”) and have converted it into a slightly self-aggrandising (surprise, surprise) rags-to-riches, faux self-deprecating “look at my success but don’t think I didn’t pay for it, learn from it and improve myself” way of explaining how great a personal success story they’ve had, and how others should follow suit. But just how much credence should we give to the value of failure in life and work?
Inconsequential failFailure itself can be on an inconsequential level, unnoticeable precisely because of its lack of consequences - i.e. not a success. An example of this being poorly presenting a website. Low conversion rate, high bounce rate, no subsequent success story, but enough of a response for some to consider it a partial success.
Micro-failFailure can also be iterative, with no single big failure story becoming important until the business entity is newsworthy. Many micro-fails can, and do, result in success, but micro-fails are hardly anecdotes worth relaying. They are probably most often quite common errors made by the legion of DIY business builders (myself included) that wouldn’t have been made by those with more experience (who are quite probably now retiring that experience on a golf course or in a garden somewhere nearby), nor by the professionals in any one of the dozens of outsource-able trades.
Random failI would also have to mention the role of random probability in success, and how persistence increases your statistical odds of achieving a desired goal. From the millions of fail possibilities that could happen to any business, a few will inevitably occur at some stage, and at other stages one or several of the millions of success possibilities will take place. Attributing this solely to skill, while it may have played a role, is risking future successes by assuming the same actions would lead to the same fortunate success result next time.
Even successful companies fail, and fail hard, on a regular basis. Random probability can not be overlooked in the success process. By the same token successes should not be too readily attributed to skill, despite the quasi-illusion that post-failure success gives of having learned and applied knowledge.
Still, just like with learning a language, watching others do it wrong can often help you to do it right and tilt those success odds in your favour. To distill a single message from this blog post would be a challenge, but one I’m happy to take on and potentially fail at: