More often than not, we judge employees and colleagues on success and failure. Success comes from good practices and failure comes from mistakes, but are these the only choices when it comes to the people who work in your organization? If we don’t know whether or not we will succeed or fail, we can experiment. The common thread is that all three phases can provide time for employee learning, which should always be considered a success.
Success & Failure – How should they be defined
Most success comes from repeating good practices, although success can come from failure and even experimenting. The difference between success from good practice and success from failure, is the amount of learning that occurs. Employees who cannot accept failure often hinder their own learning. If one can’t accept the possibility of failure, it can also be difficult to accept the possibility of success. 70% of employees who were aware that their boss was unhappy with their performance couldn’t tell you just what they were doing wrong or how they were going to change. So the identification of specific failures (the hows and the whys) is important.
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“The Idea of success is not even your idea, it is somebody else’s idea of what success is.”
Consider learning at all costs to be a success, even if it comes from a failure. Success can actually inhibit learning with both individuals and organizations. When we succeed, we often determine that the reason is our own success and talents. Overconfidence success can lead to believing that nothing needs changed, and never asking the tough questions about what else is there to learn.
With Experimentation Comes Opportunity
The outcome of an experiment can never be predicted, but isn’t that the point? The opportunity for learning is the highest in experimenting mode, and if we are judging our success from how much we are learning this can be our biggest opportunity. Stay away from making changes without experimenting–find ways to explore all opportunities, and run more experiments faster and cheaper.
“That’s right: assume the experiment will fail and produce nothing in terms of results.”
It is hard to determine if you have learned anything if you continue to take the same approach. Even though good practices often yield success most standards, repeated processes are also prone to repeating mistakes. The best result is when our mistakes surprise us with unexpected success.
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Celebrate the Learning – Loud, proud and often
“I suggest that maybe we should have a big bell in the office, so that we could ring it whenever there was something to celebrate.”
While in most organizations it is important to celebrate success with a focus on good practices, it is just as important to celebrate learning. 86% of HR professionals said that employee recognition increased employee happiness. The idea of celebrating failure makes no sense, it only amplifies the negative. When choosing to celebrate our success and failure learning in our company, it’s important to be consistent–make it frequent, noticeable and remarkable. Celebration will lead to best practices and continuous improvement in our organization and happy employees.
Never Stop Learning
Hopefully the advantages of failure learning will inspire you to make changes personally and in your workplace. Regardless of what triggers learning within your organization, find a system and expand on it. Focus on successes and learning, celebrate all the time, and keep a safe environment to continue this cycle. Companies risk losing top new talent as 52% of recent grads are not receiving training from employers.
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“It’s not about the first-mover advantage; it’s about the fast-learner advantage. The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” – Eric Ries, The Lean Startup