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FAIL: A 4-Letter Word?

No one sets out to fail. Often, we go to great lengths to avoid failure. Beginning in our early years through school, sports and performances we learn that our work is evaluated and perfect is the desired outcome. This serves us well in many areas of life, motivating us to work hard and set high standards.

But where might our avoidance of failure hold us back?

In a recent workshop on innovative problem solving, we were given 8 minutes and an assortment of random craft supplies to create a tangible, low-resolution prototype of our solution to be presented to the “client”. With barely enough time to get started, let alone build something presentable, we were expected to stand up and share our results.

I was so embarrassed to show our unfinished, unrehearsed prototype and was prepared for an epic FAIL. Surprisingly, they didn’t mock us or criticize how silly our radio made of tin foil and paper towel rolls looked. They asked revealing questions and made valuable suggestions that gave us new insight into what they really wanted. Because we made this prototype quickly and cheaply, we weren’t attached to it and were open to what they had to say. We also discovered early on where we were off course and could make adjustments before investing a lot of resources into our final solution.

What if we could learn to do this in other areas of life? What if we could set our pride aside and do things that we knew weren’t perfect for the sake of learning and improving? What if we were given the freedom to experiment, seek feedback, and go through numerous iterations until we arrived at a solution we never could have reached with a “safe” first try?

What could we learn, what could we create, what problems could we solve, and who could we impact if we weren’t afraid to fail? Rather than treating FAIL like a “4-letter word”, what if FAIL was viewed as a different 4-letter word: GROW?