Disrupting Failure – The Secret to Success

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In the world of startups we have been obsessed with failure. And learning. Or what Mick Liubinskas from muru-D calls “flearning”. You will, no doubt, have heard of the concept of “fail-fast” – a term borrowed from system design and applied to software engineering – where the focus is on fast, iterative design that irons out errors through the process of repetition and improvement. But failure comes with risk and with stigma. And no matter how bravely we celebrate our failures, as 99dresses founder, Nikki Durkin points out, “luck and timing are often huge factors in success and failure.”

So I was interested to see the way that this infographic by MaryEllen Tribby focuses not on the outcomes of success or failure – but on the attributes and behaviours of the individual. And I am wondering – if we are honest – could we find a way to disrupt failure on our way to being successful. Is there a way to observe and recognise some of our own behaviours and then work to move them from the right hand side (yellow/unsuccessful) to the left (green/successful)?

And beyond that, what if we moved beyond platitudes (and infographics), and ACTED ON some of these things. Or all of them? I am going to give it a try. I’m going to spend 30 minutes a day carrying out actions from the green side. And I will let you know how I go. Perhaps disrupting failure is the secret to success. Time will tell.

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Did You Try and Fail? Then It’s Time to #flearn

At the recent FailCon conference in Sydney, Pollenizer co-founder Mick Liubinskas threw a challenge to the audience. “When it comes to startups, let’s redefine the language around failure”.

FailCon was a day-long event bringing startups, innovators, supporters and investors together to share stories and experiences. And while there was plenty of goodwill and intention from the folks in the audience, it wasn’t until Mick pulled out a live Google Document and started challenging the audience and putting names against action items that things started moving.a  Taking on the role of facilitator, he fired questions at the audience – what do we need to open up debate around failure and startups? How can we talk about success? How can we remove the stigma?

Here in Australia we not only have the “tall poppy syndrome” which aims to lop the head off anyone who becomes too successful – we also have what I call the “failure undertow” – where even a sniff of failure can drag your reputation deep into the depths of business obscurity. That leaves a very small area in which new entrepreneurs can navigate. And that, in turn, lowers our sense of reward and capacity for risk taking.

The folks in Silicon Valley have a completely different view of failure. In the startup capital of the world, entrepreneurs who have not survived a business failure are often considered amateurs. In fact, Dave McClure, founder of incubator 500 Startups considers his business a Failure Factory.

As Mick prowled the stage at FailCon waiting for audience input – a voice from the back of the room rang out. We were talking failure and we were talking learning. What if you combined them? What if we could talk about “FLEARNING”?

And it was done.

Over the last couple of weeks, Mick Liubinskas, myself and FailCon organiser, Josh Stinton have been putting our heads together to build a place to share our failures and the successes that follow. We have been talking up the concept of “flearning” and are now looking wider – for stories and experiences of failure that we can share with the wider Australian startup community. We’d love to have you involved.

Take a few minutes to check out FLEARN.ORG and let us get this conversation started. You know you want to get that story off your chest – and now’s your chance.