As a teenager learning to waterski at a friend’s cabin one summer, I envied the guys on the lake who could do deep cuts, spraying a wall of water 15 feet high. Yet, afraid to fall down, I was content to safely ski between the dual wakes of water from the boat. That summer, my friend’s dad taught us a valuable lesson. He said we’d never learn to ski like those guys unless we “wiped out” a lot more. “If you aren’t falling,” he said, “you aren’t learning.” He was right. By the end of the summer, after losing the fear of falling, we both had learned how to lean in, cut and work up a little spray.
The “failure-as-ingredient-to-success” philosophy isn’t new; it has long been preached by coaches of all types. What is new, is that it appears to be catching on in college and business.
A recent Forbes article, discusses how failure can drive innovation, and it notes how Stanford University even uses rapid prototyping as a means to encourage iterative failing as a means to success. However, I like to call it iterative design; it sounds more friendly!