Grounded: Why We Need to Fail [via the Soderquist Center]

Categories: Leadership

This post originally appeared on the Soderquist Center’s blog. The Soderquist Center is located on the John Brown University campus, and offers leadership development to companies through a variety of programs. For more information, visit their website. For information about working there after graduation and getting your master’s, click here.


After an hour of being stuck on the tarmac, I wondered if it would be much longer until the engine fired up for take-off. Everyone around me was antsy, and the man sitting next to me anxiously talked of how missing his connecting flight would ruin his business trip. Just as I pulled out another magazine to read, the pilot’s voice finally came over the loud speaker. There would be no flight to Dallas tonight – a mechanical issue would cause everyone to de-board the aircraft and make other travel arrangements.

While several around me groaned about the inconvenience, I was celebrating. The mechanical problem could have ultimately resulted in catastrophe had it not been caught.

Failure in the business world- and especially in innovation efforts- can be viewed in much the same way as plane complications that cause us discomfort and frustration. Think about the parallels:

  1. Failure seems like a letdown in the moment, but it can save us down the roadIt’s easy to ignore a potentially hazardous situation to avoid the embarrassment or nuisance of acknowledging a blunder. Yet, it’s far easier to call out our mistakes early on than to pretend they’re non-existent and suffer the consequences later.
  2.  Failure makes us better. Statistics regarding flight delays per airline are made available to the public through BTS, holding airlines accountable for improving performance. In the same way, mistakes help us make better decisions, be more effective, or change direction. If we view them as learning experiences, our errors will serve as reminders of what not to do in the future.
  3.  For success to happen, failure must be embraced. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if certain airlines chose not to send planes into the sky for fear of complications. All worthy goals come with risk. The key is not to let the fear of failure keep us from significant action.

It’s up to us as leaders to take inventory of our failures. What mistakes have grounded you or your work lately, or what missteps do you need to acknowledge? How can you use those experiences to fly like never before? In the end, when self-corrections result in wins, failure becomes something to be celebrated.

Written by:
Ann Simmons
Soderquist Fellow


Author: EnactusJBU

Seeing Opportunities - Taking Action - Enabling Progress

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