There is a delicious irony that one of the initiatives I had planned to do – I failed to deliver.
But then again it was ‘National Failure Week’ – planned for the first full week of February.
The idea was inspired by the efforts last year of a top girls’ school, Wimbledon High School, in holding a “failure week” to teach pupils to embrace risk, build resilience and learn from their mistakes. The emphasis was on the value of having a go, rather than playing it safe and perhaps achieving less.
The headmistress, Heather Hanbury, said she had placed a great emphasis on developing resilience and robustness among the girls and wanted to show “it is completely acceptable and completely normal not to succeed at times in life.”
Ms Hanbury’s pupils achieve some of the highest exam scores – but during last year’s Failure Week they were invited to focus on failure with workshops, assemblies, and activities for the girls, with parents and tutors joining in with tales of their own failures.
“The girls need to learn how to fail well – and how to get over it and cope with it. Fear of failing can be really crippling and stop the girls doing things they really want to do. We want them to be brave – to have courage in the classroom,” she added.
Following up on this wonderful initiative I identified the 5 key F words to encourage ‘Failure’ in whatever you are doing.
1. Feedback – there is no such thing as failure. Only feedback. By encouraging a passion for feedback, where every step is a positive step forward in gaining greater understanding and learning is the way to success rather than being stuck in a rut.
2. Foolhardiness – well non-foolhardiness. Take risks so long as not if it jeopardises the very survival of the business. (I love the quote from John Lanchester on the behaviour of the banks and their use of credit default swaps used which led to the financial crash: “It’s as if people used the invention of seat belts as an opportunity to take up drunk driving.”)
3. Freedom - give others room to explore, discover the new, even to grow and be a bigger person than you
4. Fellowship – a lovely quaint word, but it’s about sharing, recognising a community of interest. It is a more powerful team that looks after its weak – as well as its strong, particularly if a team member is low after an episode of ‘failure’.
5. Forgiveness – yes, if it didn’t go to plan, learn to forgive and forget, not hold grudges. ‘Where there’s blame, there is a claim’ should be extended to – it’s also very lame.
By applying these ‘F’ words to your team or organization you can fully realise the potential of ‘Failure Week’ which should have been this week.
Only, I had so much else on: I am about to launch my new book ‘Tubespiration – how to get your next brilliant idea by using the London Underground as a creativity tool’ plus my pro bono work for the small business campaign Bully-Banks against Bank mis-selling has taken priority.
Failure Week was supposed to be promoted by the Flexible Thinking Forum, a not-for-profit social enterprise which works to develop creative thinking skills in the community. Check out www.flexiblethinkingforum.org.uk
Oh well, there is always next year – along with valuable lessons learnt from this year.