Rewards of Failure

We Failed. Let’s Celebrate! What words come to mind when you think of the term failure?

Words like; fear, panic, shame, embarrassment come up for me.

If we want to work in innovative organizations, we need to create brave teams that encourage risk taking, creativity and continuous adaptation.  And, if we’re going to welcome risk, we also need to figure out how what we’re going to do, what we’re going to learn, and how we’re going to talk about it when we fail.

turning failure to success

Ashley Good is a great example of how to approach failure.  She is the founder and CEO of Fail Forward, a social enterprise with the mission to help organizations document and learn from their failures.  Engineers Without Borders Canada( EWB) developed this process.  Their mission is to invest in people and ideas to end global poverty and inequality.

For EWB, achieving such an ambitious goal means taking risks, and innovating which could lead to failure.  They also believe it is important to publicly celebrate those failures, share lessons learned and encourage calculated risk taking in their organization and others.

Since 2008, they have published, and made public an annual Failure Report, documenting stories of failure and what they learned.

We all know that failure happens. Those who can recognize it, learn from it and adapt to the learning will achieve success.  A failure report demonstrates that you are transparent, agile and self-aware—characteristics that allow an organization to maximize learning and build resilience.

What words could you use to describe that report and the people who submitted their stories? Courageous comes first to my mind, and then generous, fearless, helpful and, last but not least smart.

FailForward.org has a template of a failure report that you can download for free. It’s what Engineers Without Boarders Canada used, so it may not be a perfect fit for your organization, however it’s a solid place to start.


Jennifer Albrecht, Vice President of Professional Development, has been teaching and consulting with Learn iT! since 1997. Since joining Learn iT!, Jennifer has built and facilitated all of Learn iT!’s Professional Development classes including Communication, Leadership, Negotiating and Decision Making.

Jennifer strongly believes in Learn iT!’s 8 Step Model for Learning and applies it in all of the classes she builds and facilitates. Further information on the 8 Step Model can be found here.