Recently, I was doing one of my cross-country jaunts and was flipping through an edition of Air Canada’s enRoute magazine and came across an article about Kobe, Japan. In 1995, the city of 1.5 million people suffered a devastating earthquake that killed 4500 people and damaged or destroyed more than 120,000 buildings. In this time of tragedy and devastation, urban planners from around the country converged and appeared to have taken the words of Japanese philosopher Mizuta Masahide to heart: “My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.”
Today, Kobe is no longer the mishmash of utilitarian, drab buildings constructed during the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, but an architectural marvel that is “inclusive, interactive, and ecological.”
All too often I have seen teams create an environment that fears failure to such an extent that the thing they were avoiding is the thing they become. At best, they become the drab buildings over time; at worst, they eventually create their own earthquakes, but are too paralyzed by their fears to learn from the failures and allow a stronger, more breathtaking phoenix to rise from the ashes.
Counter to popular belief, the opposite of success is not failure. A case could be made that the opposite of success is actually apathy (this leads us to a whole different discussion, which I’m sure I’ll cover in another post). In fact, success and failure often go hand in hand. Or, more appropriately, the learnings from failures breed success. The great basketball player Michael Jordan put it much more eloquently, “I’ve failed over and over in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
How does your team deal with failure? Do they learn from it? Do they embrace failure or the adage, “Failure is not an option”? If it’s the latter, then ask yourself: what successes are you missing out on by avoiding the failures at all costs?