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February 11, 2009


Wally Bock

I have problems with the idea of "try and fail." I much prefer the more experimental "try and learn." And I don't like the idea of try to get people to where they're willing to take risks. A better objective is to remove the risk from experimentation.


Hey Wally. Always enjoy reading your contrarian views. Gets me to dig a bit deeper into the idea. When you have a moment, grab a copy of The Leadership Challenge, 4th edition, and read pages 199 through 204 under the heading "Learn From Experience." You'll see that we are in complete agreement about "try and learn." You'll also read this comment from James E. West, research professor at Johns Hopkins University, who has secured nearly 50 domestic and more than 200 foreign patents. He says: "I think I've had more failures than successes, but I don't see the failures as mistakes because I always learned something from those experiences." To those you "try and learn" failure is not a bad word. It is an word to be cherished.

Love 'em and lead 'em,

Greg Basham

Jim, that was a cool video and speaks to the value of persistence and learning from experience. In the Honda case it was helpful that the culture allowed for failure or the new hire that proposed the disastrous orange car might not have survived probation to be a part of this video many years later.

Too often in organizations failure for personal survival is not an option and people lose their jobs versus the idea that the failing person can't leave now as the organization has just paid a lot to give them an expensive education.

Just this past week the highly successful manager of Arsenal football club, Arsene Wenger, lamented that young football managers in the English Professional League are not surviving due to impatience of their Clubs for winning. Lose three games and you are out blocks both the development of new managers and young players.

In your context, Jim, are you distinguishing failure from errors and mistakes? To my thinking there are some types of errors that cannot be tolerated such as critical errors which put the company at risk and shouldn't have taken place in the first place.

I do agree that true innovation and creativity can only come from persistence and learning like the Honda race car experience.

Kevin Berchelmann

Jim, I believe you are dead on. Leadership is inherently fraught with risks; we can no more avoid them than we can the decisions that cause the concerns.

Years ago, I worked for a USAF Colonel named Scott Atkins. He would tell me frequently that, "If 25% of your decisions aren't wrong, you simply aren't making enough decisions."

Action -- well thought, purposeful action -- must always be rewarded over inaction.

Regarding action and failure, I always remember a couple of things:

1. Good people working for a strong, decisive leader, can make a mediocre or near-poor decision into a rousing success. Not condoning mediocrity, but promoting action, and reminding us to surround ourselves with good people.

2. Sometimes, when we make a decision, we must immediately make another. It doesn't mean our first decision was "bad," per se, it's that the second one was made with additional information -- one more thing that "didn't" work.

But that's just me...

Thanks for the thoughtful blogging,


Football Gifts

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Manchester United

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football gifts

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Football Fan

Ahh..so next time my football team goes 2-0 down, it's all part of the plan to win 3-2. I get it.

Football Gifts

Interesting facts in this blog. Thanks for sharing.

Robby Slaughter

I wrote a book called Failure: The Secret to Success! A chapter is free online. Check it out!


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