Finding the Fun in Failure

Isn’t it magical watching a child achieve a milestone?  My niece recently took her first step and while I only witness it via ‘Live’ photos, it still made me smile.  Her first steps did not happen instantly.  She had to learn to pull herself up on furniture or something solid to begin with. Her mother, her father, her nana or her other loving aunts and uncles also supported her to take steps before she stood un-aided or took those first hesitant steps on her own.  She was on a mission to walk and stumbling or falling did not stop her.  Instead there were squeals of delight as she achieved each new milestone in her mission to walk.  

This reminded me of a creativity, innovation and change exercise I participated in with the University of Pennsylvania.  In the first module they talked about the importance of ‘failing’, or in my nieces world ‘falling over’ and ‘stumbling’, to enable you to change your life and the world around you.  They called it Intelligent Fast Failure (IFF).  To understand the value of failing, we were invited to create a shoe tower using only shoes and the tower could be knocked over and recreated as many times as we liked in order to achieve a T value. From memory, T = height of shoe stack  x  number of shoes.  We were also asked to self-assess rather than be assessed by the Lecturers. While it is highly unusual for educational institutions to give students the opportunity to fail and to assess their own work, this experiential exercise allowed us to relax and to play like we did as children.  It took away the fear of failure and it also meant we achieved greater success.  In other words, our T value increased with every attempt.

I wonder how different our mindset would be if we had a little more fun stumbling or if we found pleasure in knocking things over rather than avoiding making mistakes?  I wonder what ‘IFFs’ we could have fun with at home or at work?  I wonder what will happen if we did?  Would we too find magic in and be delighted with achieving milestones.