Understanding failures as opportunities

And other ways to face the fear of failure

Thinkers Co Blog - Understanding failures as opportunities

The fear of failure is not something exclusive of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It also makes its appearance in corporations, when we promote a change that affects the culture of the organization, or we bet on a novel project that moves away from “what has been done”.

At Thinkers Co., as facilitators, in our accompaniment of entrepreneurs and companies, we observe this fear on a daily basis. It is common. We all experience it, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the risk we assume, but instead of avoiding it, we must understand it and learn to live with it.

Why is it not useful to avoid being afraid?

To hide from fear means not to try. Not trying means staying in our comfort zone, postponing decisions when we can not take them with all the guarantees, stagnate in a situation, and not move forward. Undoubtedly all this is a barrier when it comes to transforming our mentality and behavior towards the Culture of Innovation.

Although we do not believe it or do not want to see it, these behaviors affect us in a much more negative way than the other way around, if we just try and fail. Or rather if we…

… try, fail, learn and try again.

It seems a like, but when we avoid being afraid we do not do ourselves a favor, we are self-sabotaging.

How to face the fear of failure?

There are many and innumerable reasons and situations that lead us to this feeling. In our case, we have developed our own methodology that understands failures and iterations as opportunities to improve and that also allows us to keep uncertainty (of almost everything).

These are the key recommendations that we want to share with you:

1. Incorporate the failure to your day to day as something natural and necessary.

Any learning process (or change, or evolution, or …) requires that we make mistakes to progress.

Try to remember the first time you failed at something.

You got it?

Imagine, for example, a small child painting one of those typical drawing notebooks with silhouettes to fill. At first he will be unable to paint without going over the lines, or to get a uniform color, but not for that the child give up the task, in fact, enjoys his progress and celebrates… well, okay, maybe there is a tantrum during the process, but even like that he learned from it!

2. Understands the failure as an opportunity.

Each of our mistakes is a great and unique opportunity to extract learning or constructive feedback that enriches our project. There is no point in catching your mistakes and whipping them, they have already happened. Therefore, look for its positive part, it’s a learning, let it push you to do better the next step.

Sometimes we do not want to see the opportunities that hide our mistakes because that means leaving our comfort zone or giving up any idea that we have created (yes, that idea that come up in the first brainstorming and that you want to developed because it’s yours).

3. Train your creativity.

We understand creativity as a tool to solve problems. This ability is not innate, nor depends on our inspiration, it is based on our ability to make connections between concepts that (at first glance) have nothing to do with it.

Therefore, creativity can be practiced and nurtured. You will think: how can we feed it? Listen to your client, your environment, stay observant, find your own sources of inspiration and experience. Another very fun and recommendable way to train our creativity is to work on our ability to improvise. In “Do Improvise. Less Push. More Pause. Better Results. A new approach to work (and life).” by Robert Poynton, you can find some very attractive reflections and dynamics to start with.

4. Uncertainty under control.

In the same way, we can not predict the future that is when, how, or why, we will make a mistake.

What we can do is invest some time (and believe me, it’s really worth it) to define the big question, what problem do we want to solve? Why?

Your challenge will be the solid foundation of your project and will help you maintain focus. It will be the best reminder of your goal, to not lose perspective.

5. The journey is as important as the result.

Methodologies such as Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Agile, give us good starting points and tools to create, validate, and implement projects. These methodologies incorporate the recommendations of our list in their essence and teach us that the way is truly enriching.

Let’s see one of our projects as an example. The big question was: how could we bring the craft closer to the customer? Starting from this challenge, and following the Design Thinking methodology, we proposed that customers could design their own pieces, and that led to DOVASE. The accompaniment of the craftsman and the users all the way was the key to build the final solution.

6. Fail as soon as possible.

Take small, quick steps investing the right resources. It is important that you play with your ideas and tangible and test them in the early phases of the project. Recapitulating, once we have the big question, a world of possibilities opens up. The problem is that we are “contaminated” and unintentionally we base the great answers on a lot of own assumptions (but wait, we do not want you to start judging your ideas, we are going to let others do it).

Search feedback allows us to test our hypotheses and validate them, as well as open ourselves to new ones that we had not contemplated at first. The sooner we start to check them, the more effective we will be and the more agile we can incorporate the changes to our project.

In conclusion,

failure is not to succeed but not to learn anything in the process.

Do not be afraid to fail. It is part of your personal and professional evolution. Learn to confront the defeats with the best weapons you can get and to get up with more strength and more lessons learned.

We hope our recommendations will help you. If you need an extra push, you can contact us here. We will be happy to guide you and be part of your project.

Published at 02/06/2018

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