Risk and Failure – Part 2

Do or don't - failure is just feedback

In part 1 I I talked about why risk and failure are critical to success.  In fact, chances are that if you succeeded without any failures along the way, you may be in trouble – that success is likely built on luck more than honed through the flames of failure, and it may be a matter of time before it faces something it can’t handle.

By the way, I’ve known a few people who achieved success though using people and stepping over anyone who got in their way (and no, I wouldn’t call them “friends)”.  And they’ve had the same problem – their success wasn’t built on tested results learned from failure, so failure has caught up with them.  Eventually, you run out of people to use.

So how do we learn to embrace risks, handle failure, and bounce back for more after we’ve failed?

First, realize that there is no such thing as failure.  Failure is just a result – it isn’t final and all encompassing (unless it was a parachute that failed – that’s one of the few exceptions).  Successful people are those who fail, learn from the actions that produced that result, then try again armed with new knowledge.

And they keep repeating that process.  Again, and again, and again.

Even after they’ve succeeded, they try new things and risk failure to keep succeeding.

But there are some secrets to how they handle risk and failure.

First, the risks they take small.  They don’t roll out a billion dollar gamble without testing it.  Test pieces of a project along the way instead of waiting to test the whole thing at the end.  You better believe Apple tested each new feature added to the iPhone over and over before rolling out millions of them.

If a risk is small, you’re more likely to take it.  In computer programs they call it “unit testing” – isolating testing the smallest part of a program before adding it to the bigger program.

Once you’ve taken a few small risks and made some discoveries because of it, you’ll find risk-taking exciting.  Don’t worry – testing out your new Angry Birds slingshot technique isn’t a gateway to base-jumping off the Eiffel Tower.  But once you experience risk and failure as a method of making new discoveries, your risk-resistance will go down and your risk-tolerance will go up.  You might even start having fun taking small risks.

So now you’re you have some techniques for becoming a risk-taking, risk-tolerant, bounce-back-from-failure superhero.  But how do you change a company or a group to becoming risk-friendly?  How do you create an environment that’s conducive to risk taking and supportive of failure?

I’ll talk about that in part 3