Employee stressed about account failure

The Art of Learning from Failure: Strategies for Business Growth

#Blog#Mental Health#Professional Development#Wellbeing#Wellness

Whatever we do in life, failure is always going to be there. Nobody goes through life succeeding at everything they try, nor are people able to pick up new skills and be an expert straight away. The only way to get better at something is to practise, and that’s something we’re taught from a young age. The very essence of practising something is the acknowledgement that your first attempt is a failure, but you’re dedicated to succeeding.  

We do this over and over in our lives; almost everything we become good at, we were once not so good at. So, whether it’s in our careers, education or personal life, why do we get so disheartened by failure? After all, isn’t it just practise? 

With every failure comes the opportunity for success, so let’s see how to learn from failure.

Failure is a part of success 

Failure doesn’t always need to be seen as a bad thing. Sure, it doesn’t feel great if you’ve put lots of effort into something and you don’t get the outcome you hoped for. But the reality is, failure is just a part of success. It’s another step on the way to achieving your goals. Famed inventor Thomas Edison perhaps said it best: 

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

As long as you learn from your mistakes and failures, success is often not too far away. 

Why is it important to learn from failure?

Learning from failure is vital for business growth and professional development. Past failures pave the way for future success, and the business leaders that can learn from their past mistakes are the ones that will go on to experience great growth.

Repeated failures occur when we are unwilling to learn from our mistakes. As a business leader, it can be very costly (financially and in terms of our time) to continually make the same mistakes. By learning from where we went wrong, we can ensure we don’t keep making the same mistake over and over again.

As business leaders, all the people within your team look to you for guidance. If you can model how to respond to failure and learn from it, your team culture will be one of continuous learning with the confidence to try new things and welcome growth.

Employee reflecting on work done

How to learn from failure

Coping with failure may not come naturally to all of us. The good thing is, we can use failure to adjust our mindset and turn small failures (or big ones, for that matter) into a learning experience.

Reflect on what went wrong 

Each failure is a unique learning experience. To really benefit from mistakes and failures, you need to take an honest look at what went wrong and work out how you can do things better next time.

Whether it’s a project, a job application, a business you’re trying to launch, or any other pursuit, analysis is the key. Take the time to study what went wrong, because that’s the best way to improve on your next attempt. What could you have done better? Identifying preventable failures will help you mitigate the chance of repeat failure.

Don’t let negative thoughts creep in 

Sometimes, negativity can be a typical response to failure. But a little failure doesn’t mean you won’t achieve your goals.

The ostrich effect is also a typical response to perceived failure – where one metaphorically buries their head in the sand to avoid information they think of as negative.

How you respond to failure comes down to how you view failure. If you can reframe failure as part of the learning process or a stepping stone, it helps you move forward. Most highly successful people have failed a lot, and they credit this for their success. Don’t let perceived failure cloud your judgement.

Use failure as motivation to be better next time. If the failure hurts you, use it as motivation to prove you can do it. Think of past failures as good failures that motivate you to do better.

Plan the changes needed to achieve your goals 

Analyse what went wrong, and what went right with your last attempt. Plan out all the same steps you took last time. Identify the ones that need tweaking, improvements, or a complete overhaul. Remember, the things that worked before are likely to work again, so hang onto those little wins. 

Seek feedback from others 

Feedback from others is highly useful information when planning on moving forward from a failed attempt.

Other people may have suggestions for new simple ways of doing things that you can try. This is particularly helpful if you know of someone who has been in a similar situation as you – and has come out the other side.

If your failed project involved other people, ask them why something didn’t work. Sometimes we can be too close to our own failures, and other people can offer an objective point of view. Be prepared to actually take on the feedback from others – this way you can make real change as you try again.

Growth mindset

Having a fixed mindset means you believe talent and skills are set, and therefore cannot be improved. People with a fixed mindset allow failure and success to define them.

If you have a growth mindset, you can acknowledge that your skills and abilities aren’t innate. This means you know that new skills can be developed.

Having a growth mindset is a great way to approach failure in the business sphere, and will allow you room to improve and grow.

Find success in every failure 

People tend to take a very black and white view of failure: you either succeed or fail. But that’s not really how it works, especially in the business world. In every project or business idea, there is a combination of success and failure, and it’s not often that something is a true failure. Often, it depends on your goal setting. 

Let’s use the example of a pop-up food van setting up for the first time. If that business owner had a goal to sell out of all their food by the end of the day, and they only sold half, is that a failure? Well, technically yes, because their goals were high. But is it really a complete disaster? Not really, because they still had plenty of people trying their food, they’ve built brand awareness, they will probably have people sharing and promoting them on social media. Next event they attend, they might be swarmed with customers. 

So, even when there’s a failure, there is also an element of success that goes along with it. Rarely is any project or pursuit a complete and utter failure. So, look for those little bits of success and use it to drive you further. 

Try something new 

Don’t be afraid to try something new. That doesn’t mean you admit defeat and throw away all the hard work you’ve already done. But after failing at one thing, it’s often invigorating to step away and try something new for a while. Try new ways of thinking, or spend some time developing a new product.

Look at your qualifications

If you keep experiencing the same repeated failures, are you lacking the skills or qualifications to really succeed in that area? Maybe it’s time to learn some new skills and new approaches to achieving your goal.

Professional development courses can do wonders for inspiring you, allowing you to learn some new skills, and motivating you to keep going to achieve your goals.

Professional development in the workplace is a great way to ensure that every team member has the chance to learn new things, test out new ideas and continually develop their skills.

MCI Solutions can help teams hone their skills and improve their performance with professional development courses designed to challenge and encourage growth.

employees attending training session

Common misconceptions about failure

In real life and in business, failure will happen. But there are some myths and misconceptions around failure that need to be busted:

Failure means you don’t have what it takes

In fact, the opposite can be true. Failure will show you where improvement needs to be made. You can then use the lessons you’ve learned to work towards your goal.

Failure is final

Anyone who’s ever launched a new business idea or tried a new hobby will attest to the fact that this isn’t true. Failure doesn’t mean you should give up on trying new things. Intelligent failures can actually do your new business or venture a favour by teaching you a valuable lesson.

Failure is shameful

By this thought process, everyone should be ashamed. In real life, everybody fails. There are no successful people that have earned their success without some setbacks along the way. There’s absolutely no shame in failure – it all depends on what you do next. Try to accept that failure is temporary and embrace it as a learning experience.

Team development to reframe how we see failure

Reframe the way failure is viewed in your workplace with professional development courses here at MCI Solutions. Our courses are designed to help improve performance and encourage a growth mindset in your business, while teaching your team how to learn from failure.

June 2, 2023

By Dr. Denise Meyerson

Dr. Denise Meyerson is the founder of MCI and has 30 years' experience in vocational education. In that time, she has developed deep expertise in the design and delivery of a range of qualification programs to major corporates and to job seekers via in-person learning methodologies as well as innovative digital learning experiences.