Is Failure a Key to Success?

Everyone has come across this, “Failure is a Key to Success”, of course one has, it is unavoidable, it is everywhere, it’s a mantra that all feel duty bound to utter at one time or another. It has now become a sound bite. It’s utterance is immediately shared on the social network. But, sadly this mantra now has as much meaning as the word Agile or Lean; organisations are not agile, they do agile as in “we are doing agile”, which now imparts as much sense as “we are doing sandwiches”.

Sound bites carry a sense of truth so obvious that we are paralysed to argue against them, and the most popular of them shout their truism so loudly that they compel us to repeat them ad nauseam. And, therein lies the problem, these sound bites invite us to hurl our analytical hats out, and replace them with a dunces hat, they invite us to be mesmerised by the surface meaning and not venture any deeper.

Failure is only good when it instructs you to not repeat it. This requires an awareness and willingness to accept and learn from the failure. Failure that is oft repeated without a clue as to its avoidance only suggest that the dunces hat is a good fit. Increased number of failures is not a sign of nearness to the goal; the goal is not a limit of a large number of failures. Neither is failure to be worn as badge of honor, two failure stripes do not bestow the title of Corporal, and neither do three confer the title of Sergeant. Just as iterative development does not mean iteratively failing, but to iteratively get closer to the clients requirement, repeated failures aren’t a guarantee that you are closer to success. Amongst the many other characteristics, success needs a high level of persistence and a driven passion to want to reach the goal. And, failure is the best antidote to passion, it will sap you of it before you even notice it’s happened.

Another oft repeated sound bite from twitter, “#people are more important then #tool for #lean”. Again true of course, but surely irrespective of anything else #people are always important to #organisation. Is it only the need for #lean that brings about the realisation that #people are more important then #tools?

Failure is not a key to success, but instead success may be achieved in spite of (multiple) failures.



About KM Mukku

Kick-start, build and manage teams in product development (particularly in the financial domain), and enjoy all in adaptive case management, business process design and business process improvement. Currently holding the position of CTO at coMakeIT.
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