We’ve long known that embracing failure with an aim toward learning and improvement can create future success. Organizations that see failure in that light, and support their people with cultures and systems to learn from failure, can become engines of innovation.
Now there’s quantitative evidence via a tested empirical model to support our thoughts on the potential power of failure. In their article in last month’s issue of Nature, Quantifying the Dynamics of Failure Across Science, Startups, and Security, Yian Yin, Yang Wang, James Evans, and Dashun Wang tackle the subject.
The large-scale datasets they used are rather unique: grant applications to the National Institutes of Health, entrepreneurs trying to obtain funding, and terrorist organizations trying to execute mass casualty events. Radically different mindsets, perspectives, and activities. In each situation the authors looked a whether the organizations and individuals were successful, controlled for underlying demographic data, and compared past failure to both the efficiency and quality of future success.
Two key findings from the study were that people who experience early failures often become more successful that those who achieve early success, and that there is a tipping point between failure and eventual success that is driven both by learning and the pace of subsequent failures.
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