How to learn from failure

How we learn from failure

So how do we learn from failure? This is something everyone experiences, but how we react and recover differs greatly. This is something I thought about when my son experienced it recently …

When I came into the living room the other day, I found our 11 year old in the foetal position on the floor crying as if he had lost a limb. What on earth had happened?

Well, he’d just spent 3 hours trying to build the Lego Star Wars Star Destroyer, only to find that when he tried to put it together that he’d made a mistake at the very beginning of the process. All of which meant …. well, the ship was not a ship, but rather some asymmetrical non-flying object and … he had to start all over again.

As I listened to how he would never play with Lego ever again, how this was the “most stupid thing on earth” and how, really, this was all his dad’s fault, because he didn’t do it for him, I realised that this was quite an important lesson to be had.

I remembered how often things had gone wrong in my working life and how I found it increasingly difficult to recover from major defeats, such as (for example) losing a big pitch.

“How can we ensure we learn from failure?” is a question we are asked regularly. And it occurred to me that really it is less about publicly declaring what we have learned and more about developing the resilience to get up, dust yourself off and look with fresh eyes at what has just happened. Doing this takes time and needs space. It does unfortunately not happen to schedule.

We need to give ourselves and our teams this time. We need to build our processes in a way that allows for our organisations to become more resilient and to become learning organisations.

Reflected, collaborative leadership is key to achieving this, as it not only creates this time, but also allows us to learn from each other and encourage each other.

How did the Star Wars story end you might ask…? Well…. after a few days our son was back in Lego fever. After a few more tears he decided to dismantle his work and start from scratch. And eventually he was over the moon with the completed Star Destroyer – and the firm intention to not ever do that again.