How to Fail the Right Way

How to Fail the Right Way

Improvising in a structured manner will help ensure big bumps in the road don’t throw you completely off course.

Look forward, not backward.

You may not always do things right the first time, but you should be intent on learning from what happened and doing better next time. To help your team do this, take turns answering two questions: “What did I/you/we do well that I/you/we need to keep doing?” and “What do I/you/we need to do better next time?”

Take measured risks.

When working on complex challenges, you’ll need to try doing new things and doing old things in new ways. But be prudent. New team members must learn the established way of handling a problem before inventing a new way. Try small experiments in safe contexts before trying big experiments in risky contexts.

Ask for feedback.

Often, you can’t rely only on your own perspective. Ask for feedback from your colleagues, clients, and anyone else involved with the problem you’re trying to solve. Ask casually and formally, verbally and in writing, and with specific and open-ended questions. And share all of this feedback with everyone on the team so you can make grounded individual and collective decisions about what to do next.

Be willing to be wrong.

Most people don’t learn from feedback. They are frightened of being wrong, so they work hard to deny negative assessments. To circumvent defensiveness, listen to feedback but don’t answer it immediately; write it down carefully but refrain from explaining or defending yourself. Take time to consider what in the feedback is useful, and share what you think you did right or wrong, what you learned, and what you will do next.

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