Know How to Tell a Good Failure from a Bad One

Posted on: September 30th, 2015 by bobmorris

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Here is another valuable Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review. To sign up for a free subscription to any/all HBR newsletters, please click here.

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Not all failures are bad – some of them are actually good because of the valuable learning opportunities they present. Dividing your organization’s failures into three categories will help you distinguish the good, useful failures from the bad, useless ones:

o Preventable failures in predictable operations: These are caused by inadequate training, inattention, or lack of ability. They’re easy to diagnose and fix – by using a checklist, for example – but they’re not very useful.

o Unavoidable failures in complex systems: Small process setbacks are inevitable, so considering them failures is counterproductive. They can usually be averted by following best practices for safety and risk.

o Intelligent failures at the frontier: These good failures happen as a result of forward-thinking innovation. They provide valuable knowledge that can help you get ahead of the competition. But they can become bad failures if your organization starts working at a larger scale than is necessary.

Adapted from “Distinguish Good Failures from Bad Ones,” by Amy Edmondson (video).

To check out that resource and join the discussion, please click here.

Also, you may wish to check out an anthology, Management Tips from Harvard Business Review, by clicking here.

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