Learning to fail

Imagine the scene, a classroom with 13 year old children, the teacher writes on the board, ‘today’s lesson is failure, how to do it well and often’.

Not a typical school scene. The implicit message of exams, and marks and prizes for top achievers is ‘be careful not to fail’. 

This is possibly the biggest blind spot in our education system and a major inhibitor of creativity and innovation. 

Software gaming company Valve know this only to well and describe in their employee handbook what happens if employee’s screw up. 

What if I Screw Up?
Nobody has ever been fired at Valve for making a mistake. It wouldn’t make sense for us to operate that way. Providing the freedom to fail is an important trait of the company—we couldn’t expect so much of individuals if we also penalized people for errors. Even expensive mistakes, or ones which result in a very public failure, are genuinely looked at as opportunities to learn. We can always repair the mistake or make up for it.

Their track record of success speaks for itself. 

Last year Wimbledon Girls High School took a giant step into the new world with Failure Week which was really about bravery and courage to try things that may not work. An essential survival skill, seldom taught.  

Screwed up






Image source: http://bit.ly/VSdyJl

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Ideal vs. good enough

It’s tempting to look for the ideal solution, but seldom realistic.

In a world with infinite choices accessible to everyone, there is always something or someone better.

The challenge becomes getting to good enough and walking out the door.

The view of everyone else’s best can be intimidating and cause us to freeze up and start again. As a result we never get out of the door. 

How can my good enough be adequate against the champion who looks so much more ideal?

But then isn’t the champions’ ideal a culmination of many, many of her own ‘good-enoughs’? 


Image source: http://goo.gl/HAKos

Relationships count

The quality of the relationships in a company directly impact the success of the business.

When people talk about a company such as Goldman Sachs as “The bank”, or “Goldman” as if it is a real person, they are glossing over the most important feature of the organisation, which is that it is made up of thousands of people in relationship with each other.

The nature of the relationships is really what a company is all about. If relationships are mercenary then the company is mercenary. If they are caring then the company is caring. Relationships that are functional create functional organisations and conversely dysfunctional relationships end in dysfunctional companies.

Just like in marriages – sometimes dysfunction can go on for a long time and reach it’s own equilibrium. It works in it’s own strange way.

Better are those organisations that work for a long time off the foundation of functional relationships.

Next time you describe your company – describe the relationships – it’s the most accurate picture of what is really going on.

Facebook’s real problem

While class action suits rage around Wall Street and the shares of Facebook continue their third day of sell offs (http://on.wsj.com/LpyLUK), the real problem behind the world’s biggest social media site may be the unhappiness of the users.

JWT Intelligence reports on research done in Singapore, China and the US that reveals

  1. 57% of people feel jealous of others on social media sites
  2. 55% feel bad after taking a glimpse at other people’s lives via social media
  3. 62% feel pressure to be witty on social media
  4. 57% feel social media interactions are a source of stress
While feeling bad isn’t necessarily a bad business model (newspapers have for years plied doomsday headlines in order to lure readers), it must be a worrying trend for the social media site in a world driven towards instand gratification and happiness.
Other fascinating items revealed in the research are that social media has permeated even the most private aspects of our lives with 11% of people checking social media sites while in bed with a partner and even 7% while having intimate moments. 
The full report is at http://bit.ly/Jw21Pw

What Google can learn from Microsoft about strategy

Microsoft’s filing last week of a complaint against Google with the European Competition Commission is somewhat cynical considering their own competition woes and their failed strategy to thwart the accusations of the competition authorities on both sides of the Atlantic. In the end they paid billions of dollars in fines and their reputation was damaged.

By attacking Google through the European competition authorities Redmond is acknowledging that despite their strong business position they are worried enough about Google to take their fight into the regulatory space, a bit like a child running to the teacher to report the unfairness of another when things aren’t going her way.

Google would do well to think strategically about their approach to both the Microsoft attack and the European competition authorities. Perception is reality and at the moment Google still holds the perceptual high ground. They can hold onto this high ground by thinking through how their approach will impact both perceptually and legally.

As Microsoft found out, a purely brute force legal denial of the accusations did little to alter perceptions and in the end they nearly faced break-up at the hands of the authorities. Google are in the fortunate position to be able to learn from Microsoft’s mistakes and to take a strategic approach which helps them not only survive the attack but also maintain the perceptual high ground.

Customer driven CSR

Customers have become somewhat cynical about corporations attempts to give back to their communities through CSR programmes. Leading CSR thinkers like Wayne Visser of CSR International have even said CSR is dead.

This makes US based Home Depot’s decision to embrace their customers in their giving campaign particularly gutsy. The companies 260,000 Facebook members can vote on their fan page for the projects that they want the firm to fund in their “Giving Back” campaign.

Band launches single on USB drive

Norwegian band Dancerock released their new single on a USB stick (called a DataRock) which comes in the shape of a red figurine. The figurine contains their single, ‘Catcher in the Rye’ together with an EP ‘California’, a 60 minute concert film and a number of other bonuses including additional tracks, music videos and photos.

Source: http://super7store.com/new-arrivals/datarock.html