The more you fail, the more you learn


Jim kept working on a prototype, night after night, week after week, month after month, year after year. He was so intent on solving this problem that he put all his time and energy, and a good chunk of his life savings into it. And yet, every time he tested a prototype, it failed. This went on for years. Friends and family urged him to give up and get a real job, or at least move on and work on another problem. But he persisted. He made over 5,000 prototypes and he learned something from every single prototype and was determined to use that learning to build the best machine of its kind.


In the end, James Dyson built arguably the best vacuum around and became a Sir in the process. In a Fast company interview he says "I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That's how I came up with a solution. So I don't mind failure. I've always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they've had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative."


Carol Dweck coined the term Growth Mindset to describe the research she did with children that fail and consistently go on to learn from it and grow and try more and even harder problems, fuelled not by the outcome but by the process of learning and growing. She compares these to children who are afraid of failure and don't want to look bad so they don't try. If they don't look good at something they will assume they aren't good at it and give up - thereby creating a self fulfilling prophecy and becoming less and less resilient in the process.


I along with my colleagues were speaking to Johnson and Johnson's National Sales team recently as they look to integrate growth mindset into their work everyday. Growth mindset is really relevant to businesses and organizations strive to continually improve and grow. Some organizations like Zappos has integrated growth mindset to the extent that they celebrate the biggest failure each month with an award. If you or your organization are interested in learning more about a growth mindset, reach out to me today.



Laura Macdougall is a leading authority for senior women leaders in the non-profit and healthcare sectors who are designing their next chapters in life, work and legacy. Direct message her for more information on her coaching or speaking packages.

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