We’re in a competitive, complex, and volatile business environment - we need more from our people. At the same time complexity and change can be overwhelming them – and fear of failure can be holding them back. Psychological safety is important: they need to believe they can grow, learn and rebound from failure.
Goals are essential. They help us align our focus towards the same outcomes. We know that we sometimes fail to hit our goals and that there are consequences. We also know that metaphorically beating ourselves up doesn't work. So what's the alternative?
An alternative, healthier approach is creating a growth mindset and culture where we can learn from failure.
Over 30 years ago, Dr Carol Dweck and her colleagues became interested in students' attitudes to failure. They found that some students rebounded while other students seemed devastated by any setbacks. After studying the behaviour of thousands of children, Dr. Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement. You can read more about this fascinating topic at https://www.mindsetworks.com/science/
Translating that, when we all believe we can learn from success and failure we rebound faster and achieve our goals.
I recently read an interesting HBR article which states that the key components of a growth culture are:
An environment that feels safe, fuelled first by top by leaders willing to role model vulnerability and take personal responsibility for their shortcomings and missteps.
A focus on continuous learning through inquiry, curiosity and transparency, in place of judgment, certainty and self-protection.
Time-limited, manageable experiments with new behaviours in order to test our unconscious assumption that changing the status quo is dangerous and likely to have negative consequences.
Continuous feedback – up, down and across the organisation – grounded in a shared commitment to helping each other grow and get better.
Here's our advice for real-life implementation:
Don't interpret the Agile saying "fail fast" as negative - the ability to fail is important in growth cultures
Break large stretch goals into smaller, achievable ones to build confidence and minimise risk
Remember "trial & error" is a common way to get to the "right' solution before you scale it
What's your most "successful" failure and what did you learn from it? We'd love to hear about it...