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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

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