Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Failure Bow: How To Stop the Blame and Shame Game and Start Learning

The Failure Bow: How To Stop the Blame and Shame Game and Start Learning*

Beth Kanter

Director Radboud REshape & Innovation

Last, I had the pleasure of facilitating an interactive opening plenary a the Legal Services Corporation Technology Conference.
Part of the session was about failure and learning. I have learned about this from colleague Peter Sims, Author of Little Bets and founder of 
BLKSHP. His book has a great summary of the research out there on what is failure.
One idea particularly stuck with me — that it is a lot of about mindset change and that there is difference between perfection and failure. Peter
summarizes Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford's research on the topic. Her research explains why some people are more willing and able to
learn from setbacks. Her research demonstrated that people tend to lean toward one of two general ways of thinking about failure, though everyone
exhibits both. Those who favor a "Fixed Mindset" are motivated by external praise, getting an "A" or someone staying "Good Job." It is hard for those
people to learn from a mistake or setback.

The other mindset is called a "growth mindset" or what I would call curiosity and learning. They are motivated by the learning process. If they
get a "C," they think what can I do to get an "A" – what do I need to change?
I think people and organizations need to shift to the growth mindset when comes to implementing social media – and working networks – and need to
incorporate a steady program of measurement and learning. But often, our feelings of shame or the blame gets in the way. When I asked nonprofits if
they do an after action review, many say yes, but it often turns in pointing figure and people hunching their shoulders.

Stop! Here's how.

The 7 minute video above is from Matt Smith who is a Seattle improviser and auctioneer. He talks about how to altering our physiological response to 
failure can lead to transparency, availability, flexibility and improved results.The video is short and worth listening to all of it, but if you are impatient skip to minute 7 and listen to the last five minutes.

Matt talks about our inner headsets that we learned as kids and it boils down to:

Don't Make A Mistake

Don't Make A Mistake

Then there is the "mistake" moment. We cringe …. Think of your last mistake — personal or at work. Feel what your body does — the cringe, the shame.
What does it feel like. That's what is stopping us from learning from mistakes or failure.
Matt says that our body gives in to the mistake. "It's like a gumby doing the bidding. I made a mistake!"

No matter you learned this as a child – in school or whatever. As an adult, it probably still haunts you. It keeps you from being creative, stops us,
but here is a technique to get past it: The failure bow. It helps us come to terms with mistakes and clear us for learning. Trapeze artists do it, 
improvisers, gymnastics stars do it. Watch this brief video clip and you'll recognize it.

Next time you make a mistake or your team is doing an after action review, don't cringe. Do this instead:

(1) Raise hands to offer it up and let it go

(2) Give a wide, stupid grin like a dog being trained and uses submission.

(3) Say "thank you I failed" and move on

Now you are ready to learn!

Matt suggests that you can't walk into walk into a meeting late and raise your hands and shout this, but you can do it under the table! If you 
incorporate the failure bow, you are not glorifying failure – but rewarding the transparency, being accountable, being in the present, and paving the
way to innovation – and perhaps better results with your social media.

How does your organization did with "mistakes" and pave the way for learning from failure?

Edited by: Lawyer Asad

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