Can failure be looked at positively? #squaredonline

July 17, 2013

I’ve just watched “Richard Eyre: Tips For Success”, the final video class before the end of Module 1 at #SquaredOnline.

He gave some great tips from listening out for what people are not saying to being opinionated in the workplace. But the one that resonated most strongly was taking risks and stop fearing failure. So, how can failure be looked at positively?

Failure makes us stronger, literally. I was a bit of a biology geek at school and the human body has lots of examples to highlight this.

For example, in order to build up immunity to a disease, we need to get ill first so that we can produce the correct antibodies. When we get over a cold, this is a visible sign that our immune system was able to eliminate the invader after learning about it. When we exercise vigorously our muscles break down damaging the tissue. That’s why athletes need a rest period to give the muscles time to heal and go through the anabolism process where the damaged fibers are repaired.

My favourite quote concerning the benefits of failure comes from JK Rowling when she delivered her Commencement Address at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.

Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you lived so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you fail by default.” – JK Rowling

To know what will work, we must first understand what won’t and every time we fail, we narrow down the number of possible avenues to success. According to Richard Branson, someone anyone would describe as a successfully business man comments that, “failure is one of the secrets to success, since some of the best ideas arise from the ashes of a shuttered business” and it is how that person deals with failure that sets them apart, their ability to adapt.

So, if success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time why are we all so afraid of failure? I believe we are conditioned to fear failure. From a young age we have once chance to pass an exam, and failing can feel like the end of the world. But the reality is, that absence of failure equals to lack of risks taken. If we don’t step out of our comfort zone, embrace our fears then we will only ever have regrets.

Nike Success

There are lots of great examples of how failure has led to success such as the notable inventions of post it notes and penicillin that both came about by accidents in the lab or how Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his entire life (The Vigne Rouge to a friend) but now they are priceless.

So to increase the probability of your future success, make mistakes, reflect on them and try again with a different tactic.

Now all of the above may seem that it relates to an individual’s life but the take outs can easily be applied to anything. For example, let’s take my clients digital campaigns. The great thing about digital media is that it is accountable. We can understand why a campaign is failing by looking at the metrics and then optimise it to increase performance. We can test out copy, ad formats and different creative to see which get the highest CTR. We can seek immediate feedback in real-time.

The same applies to social media campaigns. A great example of this was When the network problem that affected thousands of O2, GiffGaff and Tesco Mobile customers first broke out, O2 did not immediately respond. And they began to receive A LOT of criticism. O2 adapted their strategy and began responding to every tweet that was being sent in, giving customers an apology, a status update, and a suggestion as to what action to take – all within the 140 character limit. They even replied to posts containing foul language, responding with on-brand witty messages that not only made light of the disastrous situation but started to create buzz in the Twitter-sphere. Complaints shifted to praise, for those on the O2 CRM team who added a bit of humour and personality to their tweets.

Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement” C. S. Lewis


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