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December 2011


Wall of Failure

Traffic FlowOdd title for a business school blog post, isn’t it?  Well, when I read Jeff Stibel’s blog “Why I Hire People Who Fail” from the HBR Blog Network,   I was intrigued by his approach to creating a “company culture where employees can take risks without fear of reprisal”.  He selected a wall in the break room at work and painted it with inspirational quotes on failure.  His examples include:

“Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill

“I have not failed, I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work” – Thomas Edison

“Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life” – Sophia Loren

Included on this wall were these instructions for his employees:  1) Describe a time when you failed, 2) state what you learned, and 3) sign your name.     

Writing on the wall was optional, but it filled up quickly.  Some shared life lessons, others were financial mistakes and some were quite funny.   “When you make a mistake, you’re forced to look back and find out exactly where you went wrong, and formulate a new plan for your next attempt”, Jeff states.   “Mistakes are the predecessors to both innovation and success, so it is important to celebrate mistakes as a central component of any culture”.    

Jeff goes on to say that “…cultures are not created or defined by executives; they evolve around the people who make up a company.”  He has an interesting perspective on failure and its related successes in his blog and one that not everyone will agree with.  However, it does give us something to think about when considering our future career path and the company culture in which we will thrive.