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Resume of Failures

This blog of mine is for all the people and business leaders out there. And to all who want to try something different.

First, let me drop a bomb.

We are obsessed with success.

I have heard many a managers and leaders talk about creating a culture where it is okay to fail. But, have so little patience or interest in listening about ideas that failed.

Else, why do you think only best practices that worked are often spoken about? And not the best practices that didn't work.

It is because we are success obsessed.

I'm reminded of a famous story from WWII where the Allied forces were trying to determine how to better protect their bombers from enemy fire. Knowing that covering the entire plane would make the plane too heavy to fly, they need to know where bombers were taking damage. When a bomber returned with damage they would track where the plane was hit, either the engine, wings ,fuselage, fuel system or any other parr. Based on where the most damage was taken, the Allied Forces would add extra armour to those areas.

Do you see anything wrong with that?

Abraham Wald, a Jewish mathematician saw what is now called the “Survivorship Bias”. 

The Survivorship bias is a logical error where decisions are made on incomplete information. “The armor, said Wald, doesn’t go where the bullet holes are. It goes where the bullet holes aren’t” . 

Wald realized that bombers returning to be examined showed where it can withstand damage and not the opposite as proposed by the allied forces. It was the bombers that did not return that needed to be considered.

Now all of us who must learn from this story.

How many times do we focus on our failures? And try to learn from it.

Do we ask "Why it didn't work?"

There is so much learning in that. And so much more humility in acceptance of that.

We are not the sum of our successes but that's just a part of it. We fail more than we succeed so we are much more than the sum of our successes and if we don't focus on the important part of who we are, how are we to figure out ourselves?

A question I ask the candidates who I interview:

When was the last time you failed? What did you learn from it? or How would you have done it differently?

This is not an easy question to answer because we focus on the thing that worked and not on the things that didn't work.

So next time when you are working on a plan, see if you'd want to incorporate your failures in it and with it what you learnt and became in the process. Don't just focus on best practices that worked. Think of the ones that didn't.

Create your Resume of Failures. Every year.

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Unique thought!

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