Failure and success: Two sides of the same coin #failfaire

By Laura Arcari

IFAD’s first FailFaire took place at our Headquarters on 29 October 2013. The immediate question that came into my mind was why failure?  Why not talk directly about success, who wants to hear about failure?

What are some of the words associated with success?
Accomplishment, Good Times, Prosperity, Happiness 
What are some of the words associated with failure?
Punishment, Judgement, Disappointment, No income 
What are some of the words associated to People who speak about failure?
Courageous, Honest, Mature, Lessons Learnt

So why a FailFaire? To kill the taboo and change the mind set on talking about failure. Create a safe place where failures can be shared and seen as stepping stones to success. Create a failure friendly organization and strengthen feedback loops for future successes.

We all want to hear about success but we also know that success  never happens overnight. The successes that come in winning a trophy in sports, in running a profitable business, in having happy relationships, having a brilliant career or owning material assets,  are all fruits of perseverance, dedication, hard work, pain and probably some failures, trials and errors. Therefore if success and failure are two sides of the same coin then we must stop thinking that failure is for losers because failing does not mean that you are a failure. Failing at something before you succeed also helps you to appreciate your success.

Failing is an opportunity to get something right. And the faster and earlier you face what and how you failed the sooner you will succeed. Do not linger on defensive reactions such as ignoring the failure, deny responsibility or self-fix mistakes. The risk of not facing that you failed is that you get really good at doing the wrong thing and the guaranteed failure in the end will only escalate and become uncontrollable.

Admitting that you have failed is difficult because you put yourself in the public eye but if you fail out loud, you can reflect and share with others so that they can benefit. Failing is positive because without it, means that no innovation is taking place because we are simply replicating old successes. However, in today’s fast pace we can no longer afford to stay stale and not continue to reinvent, innovate and update or else failing will come for certain.

Adapting for changes in failing is responsible because as my friend would quote “when you bleed you don’t swim with the sharks”.  Here is his story on how he faced a possible failure and turned it into success. In 2008 when the global economic crisis hit Italy, he wondered how long his company would survive but rather than wait for failure he made the personal sacrifice to give up his salary during the critical years and sold family property to invest in innovative research and development. It was not long before the new strategy paid off and today his company has factories in India, China and Brazil. He has also received personal acclamations from the Bocconi University as one of the top five examples of excellence for businesses in Lombardy who survived the last two years of financial and economic crisis.

Challenge your failings when it comes upon your path and future successes will pave the road.