I was so pleased to see the title of this article in the Harvard Business Review’s interview with A.G. Lafley, the former CEO of P&G – “I Think of My Failures as a Gift” http://hbr.org/2011/04/i-think-of-my-failures-as-a-gift/ar/1
Failure is, indeed, a gift! It’s not always easy to see that when in the midst of a failure but my best learning opportunities have grown out of failure and I think that’s true for many of us. Embracing failure is a great tool for growth. I liked this exchange in the interview:
Can leaders learn as much from success? No. My experience is that we learn much more from failure than we do from success. Look at great politicians and successful sports teams. Their biggest lessons come from their toughest losses. The same is true for any kind of leader. And it was certainly true for me.
Not only can we learn from our failures, we can develop from embracing and playing with them. There is an improv exercise where we teach the fun of making a mistake. I love to watch people as they transform their experience of “messing up” into the joy of throwing their hands in the air to proudly claim, “I made a mistake!”. It’s a wonderful exercise for a group of people who are coming together for the first time. You create two circles of participants. Going around each circle everyone says their name – good to do this a couple of times. Then the fun begins Someone begins by pointing to a person across from them and saying their name. When a “mistake” is made and the person can’t remember the name of the person they pointed to they proudly and loudly say, “I made a mistake!” and run over to join the other group. This all happens fast and is quite fun. There are other exercises (perhaps for another posting) that similarly celebrate the moment of “failure” because that is where the learning, creativity and, as improv teachers and coaches know quite well, the fun resides.
Failures, large and small, are gifts… enjoy them and most of all grow from them. As my mentor and colleague Dr. Fred Newman would say, Let’s Develop!