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A while back, our art director, Aaron Dickey, wrote a blog post about giving your team permission to fail. Because he’s a designer, not a copywriter, it was called “Your Team Needs Permission to Fail.”
Despite the no-frills title, it’s a really profound post about how failure leads to growth, and, therefore, should be embraced and even encouraged.
While Aaron’s post focuses on the individual, I think it’s important to look at the scenario of failure through a wider lens and show how it should reverberate through the entire team.
Where Does Failure Happen?
In the design world, failure typically does not rear its head and announce its presence until after the point of tangible creation, i.e., a designer creates a logo and the client hates it. Unfortunately, this means the failure is often pinned on the designer.
Maybe she’s blamed for it and reprimanded (that sucks). Maybe she’s forgiven for her failed design (that’s better). Either way, that failure rests on her shoulders.
But what if the responsibility for a failure is willingly shared by an entire team, person by person, all the way up the line?
After all, failure doesn’t just live in the design file. Usually, it’s the result of a series of smaller missteps and misdirections along the way. “Smaller” being the operative word here. These tiny failures are oftentimes indiscernible when they happen, and, individually, less critical.
For those reasons, it’s more sensible that three people own up to their minor mistakes, instead of one person accepting the accumulative result.
Instead of accepting a work culture that traces failure back to the point of tangible creation, we should strive to create one in which everyone is quick to recognize and admit their role in the failure.
This creates trust, loyalty, confidence, and a desire to be better for the betterment of the whole.
Attribute Success, Own Failure
The best way to build this kind of culture is to start handling success differently.
Instead of reveling in an accomplishment, try attributing it wholly to someone else. No false modesty, no humblebragging, no sharing the spotlight. Just give the success to someone else and get out of the way.
Soon enough, the opposite will begin to happen when a big fat failure busts through the door – hands will start shooting up left and right, saying “My bad, guys.”