How does your organisation think about and share failure?

This talk has so many compelling parallels with KM.

7 Comments so far

Patrick Lambe

Nice post!

Posted on December 16, 2011 at 04:34 PM | Comment permalink

Laura Fulton

Thanks for sharing this!

Posted on January 02, 2012 at 11:58 AM | Comment permalink

Bill Proudfit

Maybe its just the time of the year between Christmas and Chinese New Year but I note the complete failure of any substantive comments on this excellent talk about failure.  I’m much more interested in failure then in innovation which seems to have become the term de jour in KM circles.

The website should be looked at carefully and published widely.  My experience is that in the workplace it is extremely difficult to get anyone to admit a mistake or failure has been made.  If you do admit a mistake or failure then you are perceived as weak, stupid or perhaps insane.  The same is true within the KM community.  People like to say they are talking about mistakes or failures but instead they want to emphasize what can be learned.  My take is that simply admitting the process, project, idea or whatever didn’t work is where we need to start.  However, this is seldom the starting point.  Rather there is almost always an attempt to spin the story towards a positive outcome. 

Some of the stories on are more along the spin side of what can be learned.  Some of them are more along the simply admitting it was a disaster.  As one of them says rather well, “That is the difference between information – of which we have so much today – and knowledge, of which we seem to have far too little.” I’m not against learning per se but I am against being obsessed with a positive outcome.  The HBR April 2011 issue on failure is worthwhile.  In particular, Amy Edmondson’s article on Learning from Failure.

Posted on January 21, 2012 at 06:01 PM | Comment permalink

Patrick Lambe

Thanks for the Edmondson reference Bill - it’s a nice piece, though I do wish the HBR would be less self serving and give broader references to chase things up!

Posted on January 25, 2012 at 04:32 PM | Comment permalink

Ian Fry

ACTKM10 had a session from EwB which was just as inspiring. I will be using this with my clients, not so much on admitting failure but the reason for failure (the lack of an understanding of the need for ongoing maintenance and review)

Posted on January 31, 2012 at 07:19 PM | Comment permalink

Ng Wai Kong

Thanks Bill for your reference. It was interesting to see the spectrum of failures one can analyse on.

Posted on February 01, 2012 at 12:12 PM | Comment permalink


Very informative, shall have to show this to my class.

Posted on February 10, 2012 at 06:33 PM | Comment permalink

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