We've all failed. In this article, we talk about some of our biggest failures and how we made the most of them.
Ha! Of course you have! You’re human. Or, you’re a computer scanning this page, in which case, you’re pretty likely to have failed at some point too. The real question is; what did you do with that failure?
I run a business designing and facilitating interpersonal game experiences for corporate teams. Think of it as custom-tailored team building. Six months ago, my business was still very new and we had booked a job with our biggest client yet.
We were super excited to get this session right; to do everything perfectly. We needed to blow people’s minds with the most fun they’d ever had at work paired with meaningful educational outcomes - all in a timely fashion, so that they could get back to their desks, smash the rest of their work day and be best friends forever!
As I’m sure you might expect, it didn’t go to plan. In fact, just about everything went wrong; people arrived late, disturbing the flow of our introductions and creating maximum awkwardness; the room was much louder than expected, so when we had everyone working separately in small teams, they couldn’t hear each other speak; and when we got back into a large group, we tried hosting discussions about the games and everybody stayed silent. Much to our surprise, it seemed that some people hadn’t even wanted to play games in the first place; they’d been pulled from their desks and forced to do this, despite an overwhelming workload for the rest of the day.
We survived the session, and actually received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Apparently, and much to my concern, compared to the participants’ previous team building experiences, this one was great... Still, I couldn’t help but feel awful about it. For weeks, it kept me down. Even now, I cringe to think about it. But now, it also makes me smile. We learnt more from that session than we have from any session that’s gone perfectly. We broke down all the things that went wrong and created changes for each of them. Every session since has been better than the last and I have failure to thank for that.
Just because we’ve learnt from our failure, doesn’t prevent failure from striking again…
It started out with horrible weather. As soon as people walked in the door, we could tell they were in a bad mood. We weren’t in the perfect place to lift their moods either. The room booking system at this particular venue was a hot mess, so we had three different groups of people come in during our session, trying to claim the room as their own. Naturally, the confusion shook us a little and had everyone on an off-beat. We knew that owning and maintaining our energy was super important for influencing the moods of others and creating ‘aha’ moments. This was the first time that our ability to do so had been seriously challenged by bad weather, bad moods, a tiny room, and constant interruptions.
Again, we got positive feedback, which, if judged in comparison to the other offerings out there, only cements my concern. Employees deserve eye-opening content and genuine fun in a seamless experience. This experience was far from seamless, yet, instead of wincing at the thought, this time I relished it. As soon as the session ended, I shook off all the bad juju and exclaimed my excitement for all the new problems we had learned about. This time, I wasn’t going to let my disappointment slow me down. I dove head-first into the opportunities that those problems presented. I could apply Anese Cavanaugh’s teachings to a real-life challenge.
This is how experiential learning sticks; we have memories, emotions, tangible experiences to tie the lesson to!
That day, we counted 40 things that went wrong. You know what that means? 40 new successes on the horizon.
Our worst session ever proved to be a very fruitful experience.