2011  September 2

Productively Fail

Today I had my first teleconference with a new council I’ve been invited to join – the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council (GAC) on New Models of Leadership. I had previously served on the GAC on Design, and it’s interesting to be within this new space of leadership where “creativity” is usually perceived as not a norm (as it is in the design field). I’m on the council to contribute my perspective on what we can learn from art and design in leadership, and can see how I was completely wrong about how experts on leadership are adopting creativity as it pervaded our discussion today. One of the experts on entrepreneurship shared the notion of “failure” as an especially important aspect to manage for a successful entrepreneur where risks are usually enormously high. An innovative CEO shared how he requires all managers that apply to work with him to submit their “failure resume” – because he wants to evaluate their own self-awareness. I shared the art and design world perspective as voiced by Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, on how artists teach us how to “productively fail” as exemplified by the critique process they learn in art school. But my absolute favorite was from a member of the council that is in the sports arena:

Many times leaders in the public sphere are criticized for some mistake or failure as if it was the worst thing imaginable to happen. But as a coach of a hockey team I’ve learned that if you as a leader are not willing to feel any pain you are not willing to risk anything -- you are not reaching high enough and far enough. I tell this to my players all the time -- if they’re not failing, they’re not trying hard enough.”

The diversity of the group is incredible, and I’m looking forward to learning more. -JM

Plain old failure isn’t as good as productive failing.

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