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Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Finding some time to go through my folder of "Things to Read" and came across a fascinating article from by Todd Leopold on "The Success of Failure."  I've wrote about if often but one thing that Coach Dale Brown always preached to our teams was "how strong is your FQ."  He thought it was more important than IQ.  FQ was "failure quotient."  In other words, how much failure can you handle, maintain a positive attitude, remain focused to your goals and keep pushing through.  He'd like the following excerpts: 

Failure. It's such an ugly word, isn't it? It reeks of cancer, of loss: the sense that what once went wrong cannot be set right, that the world has come to an end, that failures are failures forever -- that it's not just the project that failed, but you. Successful people, we imagine, are somehow blessed with more optimism, bigger brains and higher ideals than the rest of us.

But it's not true. Successful people -- creative people -- fail every day, just like everybody else. Except they don't view failure as a verdict. They view it as an opportunity. Indeed, it's failure that paves the way for creativity.
John Seely Brown is the former head of the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), the Xerox lab responsible for digital printing, the computer mouse and Ethernet. He says "trafficking in unlimited failure" let PARC's employees invent once-unimaginable technologies.

"My mantra inside PARC, which was never particularly appreciated in corporate headquarters, was at least 75% of the things we did failed," he says.

Investment manager Diane Garnick, who taught a course on failure at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, put it succinctly. "We learn more from our failures than we could ever learn from our successes."

Plugging away -- with no guarantee of success -- is not advice people like to hear. Iain Roberts, a principal with the design consultancy IDEO, says some clients have to be educated that "you have to be OK with failing." Clients naturally want to play it safe, but sometimes the most interesting ideas are out on the fringes.

"It's always a risk," he says. But a necessary one: "If you're not failing, you're not pushing hard enough."

Giving up is not the end

Giving up can also be part of the creative process, says Dean Keith Simonton, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, and a creativity expert.
"Sooner or later, creators have to learn when an idea is going nowhere," he says.

But, he cautions, that point is hard to identify.

"The error is more often in the opposite direction: Not giving a new idea a sufficient chance for development. It is not easy to tell in advance which is going to pan out and which not," he says. The uncertainty cuts both ways: "Edison spent more time and money developing a means for separating iron ore than he did on the electric light bulb. The former was a dismal failure, the latter a brilliant success."

Read the entire article: