By Vicki Wrona, PMP:

Is failure really failure? To many people, it is an embarrassment and something we are not willing to admit. But for those who grew up in the era of video games, it is truly a chance to try again, to attempt something new or different because the first (or second or third) attempt didn’t work.

The one thing video games has done for us is gotten us used to the idea of failure, known in the video world as dying or falling or being rolled over and flattened or being boo-d off the stage or whatever demise our particular game has thrown at us. Sometimes the failure is even funny. What a gift that is. It removes the stigma of “F A I L U R E” (deep announcer voice here) and allows us to try. If we are too afraid of failing, we are likely not going to be willing to try anything but the most sure approach or solution. That very conservative attitude often does not provide the best solutions, or even lasting solutions. It certainly doesn’t provide new ways of thinking, and often won’t move the team or the project forward enough. If the team is fueled by fear, we won’t get optimum results. This applies to any team, whether it is project or organizational unit or family or sorority / fraternity.

I understand that there are some areas on a project that may not be able to handle the risk of rework if the first approach didn’t work. But we should still foster an environment and culture of reaching for new and better solutions to ensure we are choosing the best path. In those areas where we need to be conservative, we still can be, but there are certainly other areas that need more creative thinking and actions.

Do you have a personal attitude of stretching and exploring or one that only follows the familiar? Have you created a culture of stretching among your team (within the limits of your authority)? Have you created a safe environment where team members are willing to toss out new ideas or approaches and know that they will be considered based on the facts and their merit rather than immediately shot down? What small steps can we each take to begin to foster more of this kind of environment?

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