Single-Point of Failure

Failure is inevitable. Failure is a requirement for learning. Embrace failure, because it’s going to happen. In fact, the failure is often systemic and is generally caused by or impacted by a much larger subset of consequences.

Most institutions have fostered a culture that sees failure as inherently bad. However, they are essential to growth, and recognizing their value can be key to future success. We learn from the valley, not the peak.

Anatomy of a failure:

It’s safe to say that all failures are different. It’s also safe to say the cause behind the failure is different. But the thread of commonality within failure can be reduced to 3-steps. First, a task needs to be completed. Second, something goes wrong with the way the task was intended to be carried out. Third is a failure to complete the task.

This is overly simplified, but the reality is the task, the reasons for the failure, and the consequences can be incredibly complex.

Origin of a failure:

Because we’re human. John Searle said, “There is no success or failure in Nature.” Nature Physics, Catastrophic failure and fault tolerant design are incredibly interesting concepts of study. No matter who you are, you cannot avoid making a mistake at one point in your life. Want to know the most common cause? Your environment. The most common cause of failure is a high-pressure, stressful environment. Some people thrive in these environments, but for those who are building complex systems, the pressure can distract from the task. Stress = cortisol. Cortisol is the enemy of complex systems thinking.

Another leading cause of failure is not trying. Yep, the absence of trial and error. We learn best through this process because the feedback loop informs our failure through the mistake. And mistakes are types of failures.

Finally, familiarity. We all know this one. We get SO GOOD at something we can do it with our eyes closed. We see the task, and recognize it so intimately that it starts to feel automatic. This is where the universe really sticks it to you! The more automatic the task becomes, the less we focus on it which increases our chances of failure exponentially.

Value of a failure:

It’s safe to say we all recognize that failures are essential to growth. We have to make mistakes to learn, yet organizations see failure as something bad. This cycle can create a pretty toxic blame-game work environment. We’re seeing this play out right now with distributed teams, hybrid work dynamics, and RTO mandates. Many people have experienced work with manageable distractions from home and feel more fulfilled, effective, and efficient than they did when they were in a centralized office. Here’s a great resource from Nick Bloom, an expert in the field from Stanford University.

Rather than seeing failure as something bad, perhaps we could try to foster a culture that sees failure as an opportunity. Imagine if we could stop, own the mistake, and map out the origin? We could understand why it happened and fix the system or point of failure that contributed to it. This is about time and intentionality….something I think our economy is telling us we need to make more of.

Parting thoughts:

It feels like we’re making progress. Discussions about what’s not working are becoming more prevalent which is important. It all starts with awareness and acceptance. I think we’re moving away from a service and management economy into one of building experiences. Technology is suddenly managing out many of the mistakes. Conversational commerce is about to give rise to a whole new way of making decisions. Factories are getting closer to consumers. Dashboards will monitor systems for real-time mistakes. The velocity behind these complex systems is yet to be understood. There’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.

Off to break something….

#TotalTenancy™ | #OrionGrowth

Photo by Ian Kim on Unsplash

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