Failure is Your Friend – Embrace It!

Kevin Jones is a social and organisational strategist, speaker and entrepreneur. Among other endeavors, he is NASA’s social media strategist. He blogs and creates videos about working differently at

We often hide from failures are are ashamed of them. But NAY I say! Open up and share! How else will we learn? Not that we need to be proud of our failures, but we should not shy away from sharing them, either.

“Oh, no,” you might say. “If I show my failures other will think I am weak.” It may be true, but I thought I would test that theory out.

At the Enterprise 2.0 Conference last week I started off my presentation with the bold declaration, “Hi, I’m Kevin, and I have failed.” Then I planted four others, randomly placed in the audience to introduce themselves in the same way. What kind of a reaction did we get?

From an attendee: Many others were squirming in their seat, laughing nervously, as if they were wondering whether they too should stand up and get something off their chest.

I heard the same reaction from others, as well.

We all fail. Accept it.

But instead of FAIL, let’s talk ITERATION – act, adapt, act again, adapt again, repeat. We don’t want to ignore our failure and pretend like they didn’t happen or we will repeat them. Let’s acknowledge the failure and adapt – doing this, we can turn little mishaps (even big ones) into assets.

Why don’t we like to fail? Because it (unfortunately) cheapens our value in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. But it shouldn’t unless we don’t move on and iterate. But to do that, we have to trust those around us. When we don’t trust, we make rules and try to box people in and control them. Feeling controlled, they don’t want to make mistakes. Instead of focusing on the things that will make us successful, we focus on the issues that are small and – in the end – inconsequential.

The key here is trust. The more we trust, the more we are allowed to fail, the more we will learn, the more we will innovate, the more we will progress. Dampen trust and run through the same formula again and what do we get? Less progress. I have seen this time and time and time again, and have never found an exception to this rule. Why? The currency of any social intranet system is trust.

Want to increase productivity? Increase your trust, which will increase your failure – and then embrace it.

Watch a YouTube video of Kevin talking about Social Technologies