How I learned to fail and embraced it


By Aishwarya Murali, &us intern extraordinaire.

More Articles On:

I never imagined when I signed up for my MA course in Innovation Management at Central Saint Martins I’d end up doing a project on ‘uncertainty’! The university is known for creativity and bringing the unexpected to the table, so I was excited to receive my project brief.

These were the exact words outlined in my assessment criteria and it goes like this…. (LO means learning outcome)

Image for post
(Image credit: MA, Innovation Management course brief)

I was initially puzzled, for obvious reasons.

So many questions started to spring up in my head. Much of what I’d been taught in life could all of a sudden proven wrong. I can’t… fail? Why should I fail? How do I do that? Is failing actually accepted? Why are they assessing me on failing, when I’m usually measured on success? Is this really innovation?

I turned to my course leaders for an answer. They were, of course, expecting panic, and taught us the following:

  1. Our mindset of being able to measure success only with desired outcomes is wrong
  2. The only way to understand uncertainty is to fail and embrace the reasons for failing

In no time, I found myself immersed. I was able to experiment freely without any restrictions sitting at the back of my mind because I was no longer afraid of failing. This led to a variety of fun ideas, social experiments and material explorations too. As I navigated my way through this, I found myself with a shifting mindset of enduring failure, accepting that it was okay to fail and carefully reflecting on it to learn.

Most of the time in today’s world, we obsess over achieving goals and giving excellent outputs, but the most important thing to understand is that failure is a crucial part of innovation, and imbibing it in our culture would have a drastic impact. The project changed me as a person, and I can’t thank my university enough for teaching me this lesson.

But is failure actually accepted in our industries?

Now back to today, and my internship at &us. While now I’m more confident about failing and learning from that failure, I wondered if it’s truly accepted in the business world of today. As Dawn Laguens of Ideo says:

“As much as we all tried to promote that kind of ‘fail-fast’ culture, we mostly lived in a fail-never culture, because the stakes were so high. Yet we know we’re going to have to experiment some, to figure out what is going to catapult us to the next level.”

My doubt was resolved when I observed that &us coach people for innovation, and locating the right problems to find solutions. Of course when it comes to real life, things are more complex and the stakes of failing are high.

But &us encourage experimentation among their clients. They have a methodology for failure! They help people identify that failures are a part of any innovative process and we don’t have to keep it quiet in order to achieve our goals. This changing mindset of people led to brilliant solutions that we never thought was possible.

Start living with your failure

Fears, failures and uncertainty are our biggest blockers. They are things we are supposed to exclude from our life; they bring about discomfort.

How to deal with this?

Start with simple steps and ask yourselves questions such as, ‘When I am driving a car alone in a new city and lose my navigation, how do I react to it?’. ‘When I want to make my favourite tea and don’t find milk in the fridge, what do I do?’ When I don’t know what my next three months are going to look like, how should I deal with it?

Are you feeling anxious, or nervous? Simply tell your brain it’s okay to feel these things.

Think through how you will turn them into opportunities. I might ask directions from friendly strangers, or stumble upon a new, beautiful part of town. When I can’t make regular tea, I may find a new recipe that’s even tastier, and so on. Practice, and eventually you will see that your mind is shifting towards a more positive nature and lets you stay prepared and conscious of change!

I hope you have more exciting thoughts and ideas to make failure, a part of our lifestyle.

Share them in the comment below!

Until next time Ciao! Bye! See you!

More Articles On: