Why FAILing is a great thing

11th October 2016

A toddler takes her first steps; then falls over.

Her proud parents say “Well, she clearly is never going to be a walker”

Ok – wouldn’t happen.

Instead, they’d encourage her to get up, and keep trying until she mastered it.

The toddler didn’t fail. It was her first attempt. That’s why F.A.I.L. stand for First Attempt Is Learning.

Obvious, yes?

So why do we forget this as adults?

We do it to others. We see someone try something for the first time, stumble over and say “he isn’t very good at that, is he?”

And we do it to ourselves. For example, we attend a training course, try a new technique we learned, it doesn’t work, so we decide “that’s it, I’m never going to be able to master this. I’ll stick with my old ways”.

But, unless we try new things – and keep at it even if we stumble/they feel odd – we never improve.

For example, one of my customers recently asked for my help with their Update Meetings – they were too long, too boring and too pointless.

So I devised a better format for them – ‘Best thing. Worst thing. Next thing’:

  • Everyone has 30 seconds max to share (1) the best thing that’s happened to them since the last meeting (2) the worst thing (and any advice/help they need) and (3) the next thing they’re prioritising after the meeting
  • People then discuss the important issues arising from everyone’s 30-second summaries
  • The meeting ends with agreeing actions…
  • … and each attendee has to have at least one action
  • Nobody can use PowerPoint, pre-reads or handouts in the meeting – not needed
  • The meeting lasts 20 minutes max – shorter if possible

This approach was miles better than what they’d been doing (I’m sure you can imagine what that was like).

But in the first meeting they tried my approach, two people forgot to prepare their 30-seconds so waffled on, and the Chair let the meeting overrun by ten minutes.

So, although everyone thought mine was a much better format, it was suggested they go back to the old way.

So I reminded them that they all thought the old way was too long, too boring and too pointless. I told them the toddler walking analogy; and that – after just one stumble – they were saying “clearly, we aren’t walkers.”

I then reminded them that their First Attempt Is Learning. And I said “You think this new approach is better than the old way. So do it again for two more meetings. But learn. Next time, everyone prepare your 30-second-summaries better. And ensure the Chair sticks to time.”

The next meeting was better. The third one was brilliant. Already, the “new way” has become “the way”.

They even look forward to their Update Meetings now… Now there’s a sentence you don’t hear very often!

Action point

Today you’ll see someone – it might be you – try something for the first time; and it not work.

Remind them/yourself that the First Attempt Is Learning; and that they/you should try it 2-3 more times, learning each time. After that, you’ll have a much better idea whether you’re going to be a walker or not.

Also, to help you not just walk, but run, here are some new suggestions for you.

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