Change management and the wisdom of failure

Failure creates excellent opportunities to refine experience and knowledge into great success.

We usually consider failure like a train about to slam us without warning. In fact, failure creates excellent opportunities to refine experience and knowledge into great success.

Organizational leadership and change management expert, Sandy Schwan, wrote a smart blog describing the value of failure. Here's an excerpt:

  • Failure Demonstrates Innovation. To innovate, you have to accept that your idea might fail.
  • Failure Shows Willingness to Take Risks. People who take intelligent risks create more value than people who are don’t take risks. That doesn’t mean to go base jumping off your office building with a parachute or take reckless business risks. Businesses that don’t take risks don’t grow, and they need employees to help them decide which risks make sense.
  • Failure is a Huge Learning Experience. Failure means that you get to look back on it, and think “what could I have done to avoid this?”, “How could I have made this turn out better?”
  • Failure Teaches Success. No one likes to fail…it might be one of the worst feelings out there. Humans naturally avoid failure. Humans who have already failed are better at avoiding failure a second time.
  • Failure Develops Faster and Better Reactions. Failure teaches us to “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,” because it hones our reactions. Experience with failure teaches employees to fail fast and inexpensively.

Organizational change can difficult and painful, making change management a crucial part of any enterprise software deployment.

Related: Change management: Denial and the fear of failure

Transforming failure into wise experience requires discriminating intelligence and good judgment. Sure, it's tempting to brush off intermediate steps on the road to innovation as wasted time and effort, but innovation and transformation require experimentation.

Advice for enterprise buyers: Learn to recognize the difference between inefficiency and genuine steps toward innovation. Of course, uncover and remove obvious waste; that's a given. At the same time, give your team some breathing room; if they can't accomplish the goal as you have defined it, ask them why not. To learn from failure, examine what didn't work and use that information to improve.

Photo by Michael Krigsman