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Failure is only valuable if we’re learning from it, and unfortunately that doesn't always happen.

In the world of innovation we are constantly celebrating the importance of failure, which is absolutely necessary. Fear of failure is cripples desire and innovation. However, each experience of failure in the innovation or enterprise context can be very different. Statements like that from Elon Musk, ‘if things are not failing, you’re not innovating enough,’ are wonderful provided you have the support of leadership and opportunity provided by finances. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs fear failure because it is costly and potentially signifies the end of their venture.

Failure needs to be controlled, minimised and met as early in an project as possible.

To benefit from failure we need to be primed to recognise and understand the contextual factors of the failure. Not all failures are based on function. A product or service may perform perfectly well, the failure can lie in a range of other areas, for example, your ability to communicate the value of the innovation or the necessity to identify the right audience. This requires that your team be diverse in their skill. The broader the skill set, the greater the opportunity for identifying and troubleshooting in advance of launch.

Some failures are more complex than others, some are resource exhausting and some are passion depleting. It takes strong leadership to facilitate resilience and support teams through periods of failure. A willingness to look failure in the eye is the first step to achieving greatness. Having this mindset often comes from a leader who understands the nature of innovation, the need for creativity and the ever looming specter of failure.

Cognitive bias, arrogance and ego are learning obstacles. A functional and robust reflection process, supported by equally robust Critical Thinking drives learning from failure. Interpretation of outcomes plays a fundamental role in the scope of our learning. It is incredibly important that we has the space and support to engage with our failures. It can be difficult to cast a truly critical eye over our own work when our ego is tied in to the project. This is however deeply beneficial, not just on the immediate failure but for future projects. Having the capacity and willingness to critically analyse your work as your go can prevent future downfalls.

We don’t necessarily learn from an experience, we learn by applying critical reflection to that experience, and understanding the who, what, where, when, why and how of that experience, so that we can better generate our next step in the process, ‘what if?’

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