‘No failures’ sounds like a pretty good mantra for business, but when you look deeper, it may just be a little shortsighted.

As a parent it’s always interesting to hear new terms that kids use. As mine are in primary school I hear things a bit later than some, but one term a teammate of my son used the other day was ‘Fail’ or ‘Epic Fail’. When he struggled to complete a training drill at soccer, he instantly labeled himself a ‘Fail’.

This reaction really concerned me as training kids is all about building confidence. Having one of them label themselves a ‘fail’ right off makes that a real challenge. I have spent many hours suggesting to my kids that mistakes are a gift because you actually learn something. My son thinks I’m mad, and groans if he gets anything wrong on Mathletics, but he freely admits that the words he can’t spell on a Monday are the ones he gets right on a Friday.

I dug a bit deeper and found YouTube reinforcing these terms with videos I used to see on Funniest Home Videos entitled ‘Fail’, or the really bad ones ‘Epic Fail’.

It actually reminded me of a few places I’ve worked where management explicitly stated that we had a ‘no failures’ culture. We couldn’t afford any mistakes or our customers would run away screaming and hook up with our competitors.

Funny thing is, just like kids who want to be perfect at age 8, businesses who refuse to make mistakes for risk of ‘failure’ are actually saying ‘we don’t need to learn anything else’, ‘we are already perfect’. Although unlikely, this is at best, only true at a point in time. What it guarantees, is that as customer needs evolve, the business will not be able to adapt. They will simply continue to do what worked last time.


So what can we learn from this?

Only by trying things, and failing a few times (preferably with your customers if you can create the right environment), will businesses learn how to respond, evolve, succeed and sustain. Otherwise it may well be that a ‘no failures’ culture lead to an ‘epic fail’.

What strategies are you using to make sure you learn from your mistakes?