The power of failure

The power of failure

Someone once told me that trainers never really master their training subjects themselves; you

actually train other people in the subject you are still learning yourself. Ouch, I thought, thinking

about several topics I addressed in my trainings in the past years.










But let’s face it, there is a truth hiding in that statement. To be able to give an outstanding training in

a specific topic, it has to resonate with you, preferably you have to be passionate about it. This

implies that you have a lot of experience with it, for better, but mostly for worse. Teaching

something you are excellent in, is not that challenging for a trainer and besides, it will be harder to

identify yourself with your students, if you have not experienced yourself what they find hard to do.


I would actually argue that the personal experience makes you a better teacher than someone who

never faced any problem with the subject. And aren’t we all human in making mistakes? So why

wouldn’t your trainer be human too? In the end, training is not (only) about how to ‘solve’ your issue,

but to better understand why you do what you do. And if certain errors keep coming back to you, to

recognize it earlier when you are heading for a mistake and how to adapt your ways.

That in fact is paramount. Understanding your own self, forgiving ‘you’ for making errors and

embracing the experience. If you obtain more insight into the why of your behaviour, it will be easier

to recognize it and try a different way next time.


One of the things I like most about agility is the focus on improvement, yet, at the same time, also

the acknowledgment that errors will occur and that failing is okay, as it offers you useful insights and

an opportunity to get better; try –> fail –> learn –> repeat! In that sense, failure is something to be



If you are interested in exploring that mindset, I gladly offer you some inspiration to that purpose:

– Agilists regularly inspect and adapt their team’s ways in a Retrospective. Corinna Baldauf

assembled many ‘retro’ practices in her great, freely available Retr-O- Mat.

– Attend a F***-up night, where entrepreneurs share their story of failure and what they

learned from it. At Wemanity, we hosted a great F***-up night in Paris a few months ago and

in The Netherlands we recently offered the F***-up festival as a workshop for agilists!

– Read this nice blog from Louise Brace about Celebrating Success and Failure.

– Read about the inspiring journey of Dick Fosbury, experimenting in the sixties of the last

century with a new high-jumping technique, nowadays called the Fosbury Flop.

– And last but not least: a great example of an organisation that cherishes failure is Ben &

Jerry’s (the divine ice cream makers!) who pay their respects to not-so- best-sellers on their

real-live Flavor Graveyard on their factory’s premises in Vermont. Read this witty article and

pay your respect to e.g. the Sugar Plum and Miz Jelenas sweet potato pie flavours!


So, let’s make failure something to be proud of! How will you screw up today ;o)?


Photo: The Wright brothers invented the world’s first successful airplane after many years of trying |

Credit: National Archives/ Hulton Archive/ Getty Images

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