Some of today’s most successful people, like Mark Cuban, Oprah Winfrey, and Paul Allen, have said that they have learned from failure.
It’s pretty clear that failure is an inevitable stepping stone on the way to success, but how can you overcome it and actually accomplish your goals?
Well, earlier this year, two University of California-Berkeley business school lecturers published a book called “The Other ‘F’ Word” in which they offer a seven-step framework for using failure as a valuable resource for success.
Here are the seven steps that can help you overcome failure, which authors John Danner and Mark Coopersmith call the failure value cycle.
1. Respect and anticipate failure in order to reduce the fear of it.
It starts with acknowledging and accepting that failure will happen. “Failure is like gravity — a universal and pervasive force,” Coopersmith tells Business Insider. “In order to turn it from a recurring regret into a strategic resource, companies have to stop denying and ignoring it.”
2. Rehearse to improve your reflexes.
Properly rehearsing for failure can help a company get back to business faster. To do so, Coopersmith and Danner suggest applying what they call the “Un-Golden Rule,” which means to “do unto yourself before others can do unto you.”
“Companies should regularly and creatively assess their own most fragile vulnerabilities before those are exposed and exploited by competitors eager to capture customers and market share,” Danner says.
3. Recognise failure’s signals earlier to buy time.
An “early warning system” can help buy a company time to make better decisions to minimise the effects of failure. Coopersmith and Danner recommend rewarding customers, suppliers, and employees for identifying situations worth fixing or improving.
4. React quickly to minimise damage.
This is where “companies can flunk failure most visibly, but also when they can shine in adversity,” Coopersmith says. It’s important to have a plan of how your company will triage failure, “like a hospital emergency room does,” and be willing to ask for time “to clearly understand the situation and assemble your response,” the authors say.
5. Reflect to draw insights.
“This is when you take the time to fundamentally understand what happened and why, and what it means to you and your organisation,” Danner says. Treating failure like feedback, as a positive resource, will be beneficial.
It’s a matter of asking the right questions in the right order. “What, why, how, where, and when will probably generate better understanding than asking who,” he says. This will allow leaders to engage employees in useful conversation about “developing a response which has positive implications for culture, productivity, and the ability to better incorporate those insights and people in the next stage.”
6. Rebound to put new action plans into play to improve performance.
“Effective rebounds usually rely on the leader’s ability to re-engage, if not inspire, his own troops for returning to the field with the increased wisdom they have just been handed and the opportunity to perform even better,” Coopersmith says. With this, don’t focus on those around you. Keep your focus on what you control and what you and your team can do.
7. Remember to strengthen workplace culture.
In their book, Coopersmith and Danner highlight four important ways to remember failure in a constructive way:
- Stories are where the lessons of failure are informally entered at the most fundamental level in the organisation’s cultural narrative.
- Rituals are repeated activities that highlight the most important aspects from the failure.
- Relics are physical artifacts that remind the organisation of what it learned from each failure.
- Reports are a formal memorialization of the failure and the lessons learned.
In a short video about the book, Coopersmith brings up Instagram as an example of a company that has successfully gone through the steps. When the Instagram founders talked to their early customers, they said it was too complicated, Coopersmith says.
The customers did, however, say that they loved the photo section of the app. So the founders went back and created the simple photo app that grew to 150 million users twice as fast as Twitter.
“If they had just listened to their customers and the customers said ‘this product is a failure; this product is too complicated; we’re not sure how to use it;’ and they hadn’t listened in between and said ‘what’s failing and what can we find that’s a success? What can we learn from this?’ Then they would have just shuttered everything and gone away,” Coopersmith says in the video.
Failing 39 times may be a bit over the top, but the moral is that failure absolutely will happen. How you react and work past it, though, is what will determine your success.
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