YouTube can teach you everything from how to play the guitar to how to exercise with poodles. And now you can get a masterclass in how to embrace failure from no less than Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School, one of the earliest and most prominent advocates of embracing failure. She now has HBS Review video which can enhance your failure skills. Specifically, she talks about 3 types of failure skills:

  1. Detecting Failure
  2. Analysing Failure
  3. Producing Intelligent Failure

Edmonson implies that there really aren’t different “types” of failure, just different “scales” of failure (from small inconsequential things to major loss of life). The skills applied are the same, just the stakes are different:

  • · “Here’s the dilemma. Most managers understand logically that it is important to learn from the failures that do occur. At the same time, they worry that if they are open and accepting of failures, they’ll create a sort of ‘anything goes’ atmosphere where there’s no high standards and people can perform at pretty much any level they want and that’ll be fine. That’s a false dichotomy…That would be a true worry in a world where in advance we could know exactly what to do and how to do it. And those who didn’t do it should certainly be held accountable for not doing it precisely right. In reality, in the workplace that we now face, a minority of work falls into that category. Most work is of the kind where there are certain uncertainties, there’s lots of novelty, there’s lots of need for creativity and new ideas. And it’s a given that some portion of the new work will go wrong.”

She highlights 3 key strategies for embracing failure:

  1. Frame the work properly – safety QA versus entrepreneurial R&D
  2. Embrace messengers
  3. Establish structures and process for learning