As mentioned in a previous post (Our biggest failures and what they taught us), we’ve been putting a book together here at CKS. This has required a lot of introspection and revisiting of old work in order to determine what we’ve learnt and how we’ve grown over the years. Fast Company’s exploration of failure and its manifold manifestations is interesting in this context as it identifies which forms of failure are beneficial to innovation, and which aren’t.
…what concerns me is that in this counterintuitive embrace of failure we may be conflating different kinds of failure, and doing so at some risk. Perhaps all this is a necessary antidote to capitalism’s “success at any cost” mentality. But I have a creeping sense of anxiety that the rise in the rhetoric of failure dovetails in troubling ways with a shift toward esteem building in child raising and general education — in other words, trophies for the last place team, too. And not to sound like a hard-driving, unforgiving “tiger mother,” but I do wonder what this ubiquitous positive vibe surrounding failure really means for a nation in decline on almost every measure of productivity, achievement, and social equity. Coincidence?
Thus, in order to better distinguish these conflicting kinds of failure, we need a failure spectrum — from devastating to productive — that allows us to differentiate among these different modalities. And like the Eskimo’s many words for snow, each type of failure conveys slightly different qualities and characteristics, helping to shed light on what exactly we mean when we say something fails.