I recently read an interesting article on www.coachingsearch.com about the fear of failure. The article featured the thoughts of Pat Fitzgerald, the head coach of Northwestern University’s football program. Pat Fitzgerald: ‘Society has taken away the ability for kids to learn from failure’.
It is a quick read that summed up the effect of social media on his players. He states that the players can’t make a mistake without it appearing almost immediately on social media. He further believes that this is causing players to “be afraid to cut it loose because they’re afraid of failure”. He goes on to explain that during his playing days he made mistakes and it was through those mistakes that he learned and became a better player, in fact he became a 2-time All American.
I have spent my career in technology, I certainly had more than my share of mistakes to learn from. And I understand that there are not thousands of fans watching every move a programmer or administrator makes that will take to social media to call out a mistake, but as managers do we look to the mistakes and set unrealistic goals? Do our business users have expectations that do not allow IT or their business users to learn by error as a new technology is deployed? We frequently advise that when deploying a new technology, the business owner should look for quick wins, not try to do too much too fast. We suggest that a system be put into the hands of the users to let them drive and then decide what needs to be changed. In the process there may be some small failures – but more importantly there will be opportunities to learn and become better.
I am reminded of a great quote from Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work“.