From Taylorism to the digitalization. These days, a lot has changed and needs to be changed. Days when you were demoralized for mistakes, where you were yelled at or even embarrassed. That’s over and done with. At least, I hope so. But are we already living it? Can each of you say that you live the culture of failure? Or are you again talking to a colleague with a subliminal tone about his recently made mistake?

My point in writing this article is not to show you what a bad person you are. On the contrary, I think that everyone reacts in a less than optimal way at one time or another. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand what it does and how we can prevent it. To improve ourselves, day after day.

What means Culture of failure?

It arose from the social and economic sciences. The Japanese have even perfected the culture of failure. I’m talking about kaizen, the continuous striving for improvement. In general a culture of failure refers to a company’s or organization’s attitude toward mistakes. Does it deal openly with mistakes, or does it even threaten sanctions? It sees a strong failure culture is an opportunity for growth. Does that sound strange to you?Only those who are allowed to make mistakes dare to take a risk and think one step further. I’m talking about thinking outside the box. Innovations can come about when you’re allowed to make mistakes. In addition, it’s even recommended to make mistakes when the business is still small. You can learn from these and prevent them in the future.

Whenever people meet, the culture of failure is developing steadily. Wether you like it or not. By that I mean, if you don’t define a culture of failure, then you have to live with how it forms. Isn’t it like that? Of course not, you can still change it but every change can be difficult.

How to implement a good culture of failure?

  • Start with yourself. First, you need to start on your own. You need to understand why it is important and be able to show it. Be a role model!
  • Either you are in a c-level position or you need to get the management on board. It requires being clear that the top level supports the initiative and the employees do not need to fear sanctions.
  • Explain. Explain why it is significant to you, why is it indispensable to the company? You want to get all on board, so take your time and bring everyone on the same page.

What to do if failure happens?

Of course, the more failure you allow, the more trials can be done and the more can go wrong. The goal is to learn out of it, improve and to not do them again.

  • Get everyone together
  • Talk about what happened
  • Analyze it in detail
  • Discuss solutions which could have prevented this error
  • Establish actions to avoid the risk of repetition

I have learned within different companies how culture of failure can be practiced. At the end, I think it’s up to the person itself if you learn something out of it or not. I’m glad to take risks sometimes, but at the same time I’m thinking a lot about how could I have prevented it. Of course, I know that I learn a lot out of it but sometimes that’s just not enough for me. The keyword is acceptance. You need to accept your failure. You need to continue, take risk again but be cautious about it. Keep in mind how you could prevent future errors.

What should you avoid?

  • Don’t blame someone else. Rather, try to talk systematically. This helps to understand the problem even better.
  • Avoid micromanagement. Even if someone has made a mistake, and you are sure they have good intentions, they will not make it again. Or at least try to. Don’t destroy your relationship by watching every move of the person.

What’s in for the department or the whole company?

  • Employees will ask themselves more openly.
  • Learnings can be done without acquiring the guidance from the upper level.
  • Trust-relations starts to build within the departments.
  • Open ideas which sometimes could be crazy are also mentioned. However, even from among the crazy ideas, one can be superb. Creativity is needed more and more in the current age. You’ll see, the team will be able to move mountains.
  • The company or department itself will become more agile.


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