Transforming failure and fear to a culture of learning

#peopleatrightplace Oct 29, 2020
Imagine the following situation: As 11 months old you think, "I want to walk upright like adults." A brave decision. You pull yourself up and start your first steps along with the sofa. And suddenly - ups - your foot bends and you fall down on your pampers. You turn red in embarrassment, look around the room, and hope that no one has watched you during this unsuccessful attempt. 
You might give it a second try, but after 3 steps you fall down on the diaper pants again. Discouraged, you decide that walking is not for you and you continue crawling through life until today.
This seems unimaginable and a terrible idea, right? And yet we behave very similar in many professional situations. 

When we say 'fail', it evokes bad feelings, because this word is normally used in a negative context. That is why we are afraid to fail. But why this fear of making mistakes? Isn't it time to put an end to this subconscious negativity? 


Changing the perspective can change our life 

Positive thoughts result in positive consequences. We need to learn to view our mistakes from a different perspective. Instead of rejecting an existing situation, we can give it a different meaning by repositioning it. Many great inventions, that have an important place in our daily lives, were made by accident. For example, in 1928 biologist and physician Sir Alexander Fleming was looking for a medicine that could cure all illnesses, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't achieve his goal. Fleming went on vacation to relax and make his mind free to get better results. When he returned from vacation, he noticed a mold called Penicillium contaminating the Petri dish. Investigating further, he realized that this mold was a species capable of dissolving all the bacteria around it. He decided to reproduce this mold and as a result discovered penicillin, an antibiotic capable of successfully fighting many diseases. This 'accidental' discovery was leading to one of the most important medical treatment methods and has since saved millions of lives. 


Take the chance to learn from failures

In his speech at TED Talk, Canadian emergency physician Brian Goldman talks about the mistakes he and other doctors can make. Doctors are expected to be perfect, everything must be flawless because human health is important. When we think about it, we forget that we are all human. ‘Mistakes are inevitable.’ says Brian Goldman. According to him, there are mistakes his colleagues cannot talk about because they are ashamed of. But on the other side everyone wants to share their stories just to tell others ‘Don't make the mistake that I madeIn order to achieve this, they need understanding and empathy of the others when mistakes happen. 



The 'Fail-Share-Grow' model visualizes the cycle of our learning process.

Employees in organizations are afraid of making mistakes. Because every time a mistake is made, there are concerns such as dismissal, failure to get promotion and low grade in performance evaluation. Therefore, the main concern in most companies is to avoid making mistakes and - if mistakes happen - the fear of sharing them and - even worse trying to cover up. However, one of the most important factors in developing an organization is to learn that similar mistakes do not happen again. Unshared errors will possibly be repeated and it can become more difficult for both - the person and the company - to compensate them each time. Not only in the medical world, but also in all organizations, the primary need is an environment in which mistakes can be met and shared with love and trust. If the culture of an organization allows that mistakes are shared, growth, development and innovation will happen.  


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