When Failure Is an Option

    By: Jonathan Gennick on Jun 18, 2018

    My friend Lucas Rizzotto is an artist and developer who is active in virtual and augmented reality. He creates art through technology and recently made a comment that caught my attention:

    “What I love and I hate about VR I am wrong ALL the time.”

    There’s more to his comment and you can read the whole thread on Twitter if you’d like.

    I don’t get paid to be wrong all the time, but am I wrong often enough? Without the possibility of being wrong, am I really learning, or have I stagnated? People say that with great risk comes great reward, yet it must also follow that with great risk might come catastrophe. One cannot be true without the other.

    Lucas’s comment reminds me how important it is to plan for failure in my work. We need space to try new ideas and practices and see how those things play out in the real world. Sure, it’s great when we try something new and it succeeds. Why can’t it also be great when we try a new idea and it fails?

    Authors who published with me last year will know about my coffee mug experiment. It was an “under the radar” project in which authors received coffee mugs designed with their book’s cover image. Publish a book. Get a mug to grace your desk. Fun concept! But ultimately a fail. I can expound at length on the hassles and costs of shipping physical objects internationally.

    The success of the project, however, is precisely that I can expound at length on the hassles and costs of shipping physical objects internationally. I can also talk more authoritatively about the pros and cons of sending token gifts to celebrate published books. Success lies in my newfound ability to speak with the forcefulness of experience. Looked at in that light, even my failure is a success, from a certain point of view.

    We hear the term “best practice” in business, and in medical circles there is the “standard of care.” These terms refer to well-accepted practices that tend to produce desired results. Some database experts object to the word “best,” so perhaps we can say “common practices” instead. If what you are doing involves common practices that everyone else knows of and also are doing, then where is the big leap that will put you ahead your competition going to come from?

    What can you do that no one else is doing? What can you do to find out tomorrow’s best practices and put them to work today while your competition lags behind? These are interesting questions, and finding the answers involves taking risks and failing.

    Contain your failures. I did not bet the farm on coffee mugs. I knew from the start that I might spend a few hundred dollars (yes, from my own pocket) and have nothing to show in the end. My value from the experience is in line with its cost, and it’s entirely possible that in the long term I’ll come out ahead. After all, that failure provides fodder for this article that I’m writing now. Without experiences, what would I have to write about?

    Goal setting is a fact of corporate life. Many, if not most of us, are asked each year to set so-called SMART goals. These are specific, measurable, yadda, yadda. All good! But I encourage you, in the back of your mind, to also set some “explorations” for yourself. What can you do on a personal level to explore a new technology, or a new way of doing things? Contain the risk and don’t be afraid to get a few months into something and decide it’s not working out. It is precisely today’s blue sky, visionary thinking that leads to tomorrow’s best practices.

    Released: June 18, 2018, 10:36 am
    Keywords: IOUG Press Corner | IOUG Press

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