A New Approach to Failure

Eddie Obeng is on a mission to get the world to see reality in the 21st Century.

As in, the reality of the world the way it functions now and not the way it functioned ten years ago or even one year ago.

His unique perspective suggests that in many instances the pace of change keeps increasing while our pace of learning stays stagnant. We haven’t noticed this happening right in front of us and are interacting with this new reality in old, outdated ways. In his words, “addressing last year’s problems without thinking about the future” keeps us in the past because the pace and progression of life is speeding up.

Creativity and innovation are valued and pushed by businesses and employers in our collaborative, connected, accelerated world. The disconnect happens when an employer says to the employee, “Take risks and be creative,” and the employee hears, “Do crazy things and then I’ll fire you.” This is because we learned once upon a time that failure is something to be feared.

He recommends a new approach to embrace this new reality called Smart Failure.

He explains that there are actually two ways to fail:

1. You do something and get it wrong.
2. You do something you’ve never done before, and you get it wrong.

We should be applauded for the second kind of failure. That’s the kind of failure that will take us new places. It requires questioning our sensible, rational decisions. Are they really sensible? Are they really rational?

He’s a man who’s practicing what he preaches. He quit his safe, steady teaching job and created the world’s first virtual business school where he teaches businesses and institutions how to adapt quickly to the fast-changing world and challenges their current thinking and practices.

We don’t need to be a business or institution to do this kind of reality check.

Are we doing things the way we’ve always done them even when we’re not getting results? Are we putting out fires in our lives instead of blazing new paths?

Emerson put it plainly. “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”

How would you define failure? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Share your comments below!

photo by: Lee Nachtigal