Don’t be Afraid of Failure in the Workforce #FailFast

By Sheetal Jaitly

Imagine yourself working on a product that will be released to market in 4 months. You’re one month into the project when you discover a huge mistake you made a week ago that could jeopardize the success of your entire project. What should you do? You contemplate telling your boss, but you recall hearing about the nightmare your colleagues went through when your boss found out about their failed project 5 months ago, and you start to panic.

When your boss asks you how the project is going, you lie and say, “Everything’s going great!” as your palms get sweaty. You’re scared to tell your boss about your mishap so you try to fix it yourself and cover up the mess, but it just gets worse. Time was wasted and 3 months later the entire project fails anyway. Now you need to prepare a speech to fight for your survival in the company as you get called into the boss’ office.

Some version of that story is what employees may have experienced if they work at traditional companies that view failure as punishable, incompetent and unacceptable. At TribalScale, we build a culture on failing fast, a core Agile concept.

We reward failure!

Why?

When people fail, they are afraid of admitting their failures and often delay their confession as much as possible. When we build an environment where failure is accepted and rewarded, it creates more open and transparent conversation. In return, problems are detected early, less time is wasted, and everyone can learn from one another’s mistakes.

We encourage people to fail so that they can explore radical and innovative ideas instead of being afraid. We understand that it can take several failures to breed one groundbreaking idea. However, fail fast doesn’t mean you should fail often. The most important distinction is the need to quickly detect failure and to learn and improve each time we fail. You need to fail fast and learn fast.

How to Reward Failure

Building a fail fast culture isn’t easy, but it has to start at the top. CEOs, supervisors, managers and leaders have to embrace the concept and lead by example.

Leaders should teach their employees why they failed, what they learned and why they shouldn’t repeat the same mistakes they made. Take an informal approach by presenting your case study on, “The time I failed ______ and what I learned from it,” at dinner or other social settings.

Being transparent and open is the key to building a culture on failing fast and it will cultivate a wave of smart people who aren’t afraid to take risks and be innovative.

As the CEO of TribalScale, I’m all for rewarding failure. If you have a story about a time you failed, tell us about it in the comments and I might just reward you with a beer!

author

About the author

Sheetal is a 13 year veteran of the tech industry. In his current role as CEO of TribalScale, Sheetal is applying his business development skills to quickly scale the young IoT and mobile development company. Outside of his day-to-day role, Sheetal is an avid investor in the technology space as well as a volunteer and member on the BoD for the Ontario Association of Food Banks.

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