I’m not one for buzzwords. Boil the ocean. Lean in on the issue. Unpack the meeting. Blah blah blah.
But I like the idea of failing forward. It basically means that it’s okay to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes. How could I mind that? What’s not to like about learning?
But I’d like to take the buzz out of the phrase and make it more tangible. So here’s how I’ve started to proactively fail forward in my work.
1. Take risks
If it’s okay to fail as long as you learn from it, then I’m going to embrace this notion and take more risks. This newfound attitude gives me tremendous permission to try new things and see if they’ll work. If they don’t, then at least I’ve tried and learned.
And by the way, maybe they won’t all fail!
2. Learn constantly
I believe that learning is both sequential and concurrent. So, I’m going to make sure that the lessons I learn through failure will stack on one another, each piece of learning helping the next.
Failing and learning shouldn’t be one-offs or isolated incidents. They should weave together in a constant stream of learning that builds and rewards as we move forward. That way, we can improve and eventually succeed more often than we fail.
3. Search and reapply
We can also learn from each other’s mistakes. I always say marketing is a spectator sport, meaning we can learn from watching each other’s brand activities — both the wins and losses.
Failing forward is certainly a part of that, particularly as we watch big brands make public mistakes that quickly become social media fodder.
4. Accept failure
This one is the hardest, at least for me, by far.
It’s not easy to fail. It’s not something we were taught to do. It distracts us from our mission and it takes time away from being successful.
Or does it? Do we need to shift that thinking? Maybe we should accept failure as a natural part of the path to succeeding.
I’m learning to fail forward on a daily basis, not only for myself but for my teams as well. As a business leader, I need to create an environment where failing forward is accepted and embraced as part of a learning culture that seeks continuous improvement. For me and my teams, that improvement includes actively learning from our individual and collective mistakes.
I’d encourage you to create a culture of failing and learning from your mistakes in your business, too.