On Being Resilient and Embracing Failure

Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes. – John Dewey

Over the past decade, education has seen a narrowing of curriculum due to the implementation of No Child Left Behind. The growing ‘culture of one right answer’ is eroding the analytical and critical thinking abilities of American students who are being fed a diet of rote memorization and bubble sheets. This conversation will delve into the research and scholarship related to the need for a curriculum devoted to developing a thinking nation, complete with the ability to fail and learn from that experience.

Barry Schwartz on our loss of wisdom – TED talk  (3:37-5:45)

We also argue that practical wisdom is becoming increasingly difficult to nurture and display in modern society, so that attention must be paid to reshaping social institutions to encourage the use of practical wisdom rather than inhibiting it.

Bridging Differences – We Need Schools That ‘Train’ Our Judgment

I want a nation of citizens who are less inclined to think that the “truth” can be captured in one of four feasible answers—a,b,c, or d. I mention “feasible” because in constructing such tests it is crucial not to have one “right” and three absurd alternatives.

Ready to Innovate: Are Educators and Executives Aligned on the Creative Readiness of the U.S. Workforce?

Overwhelmingly, both the superintendents who educate future workers and the employers who hire them agree that creativity is increasingly important in U.S. workplaces, yet there is a gap between understanding this truth and putting it into meaningful practice.

You Play World of Warcraft? You’re Hired!

Gaming tends to be regarded as a harmless diversion at best, a vile corruptor of youth at worst. But the usual critiques fail to recognize its potential for experiential learning. Unlike education acquired through textbooks, lectures, and classroom instruction, what takes place in massively multiplayer online games is what we call accidental learning. It’s learning to be – a natural byproduct of adjusting to a new culture – as opposed to learning about. Where traditional learning is based on the execution of carefully graded challenges, accidental learning relies on failure. Virtual environments are safe platforms for trial and error. The chance of failure is high, but the cost is low and the lessons learned are immediate.

Failure: The Secret to Success

Failure. The mere thought can paralyze even the most heroic thinkers and keep great ideas off the drawing board. But is failing really that bad? We get an inside look at the mishaps of Honda racers, designers and engineers to learn how they draw upon failure to motivate them to succeed. From poor color choices to blown race engines, these risk-taking individuals provide an honest look at what most people fear most. Watch the film and discover the upside of failure. (specific place link)

University of Colorado Denver Business School study shows failure better teacher than success

While success is surely sweeter than failure, it seems failure is a far better teacher, and organizations that fail spectacularly often flourish more in the long run, according to a new study by Vinit Desai, assistant professor of management at the University of Colorado Denver Business School.  Desai’s research, published in the Academy of Management Journal, focused on companies and organizations that launch satellites, rockets and shuttles into space – an arena where failures are high profile and hard to conceal.

A Defense of Unknown in Infographics

We’re inventors – we’re creators. And that’s the most important thing about what we do. And I think we should welcome failure every once in a while. – Hannah Fairfield

Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up

What turned out to be so important, of course, was the unexpected result, the experimental error that felt like a failure. The answer had been there all along — it was just obscured by the imperfect theory, rendered invisible by our small-minded brain. It’s not until we talk to a colleague or translate our idea into an analogy that we glimpse the meaning in our mistake. Bob Dylan, in other words, was right: There’s no success quite like failure.

Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn

People remember things better, longer, if they are given very challenging tests on the material, tests at which they are bound to fail. In a series of experiments, they showed that if students make an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve information before receiving an answer, they remember the information better than in a control condition in which they simply study the information. Trying and failing to retrieve the answer is actually helpful to learning. It’s an idea that has obvious applications for education, but could be useful for anyone who is trying to learn new material of any kind.

Architecture of Participation

I’ve come to use the term “the architecture of participation” to describe the nature of systems that are designed for user contribution. Larry Lessig’s book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, which he characterizes as an extended meditation on Mitch Kapor’s maxim, “architecture is politics”, made the case that we need to pay attention to the architecture of systems if we want to understand their effects.

Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn

For years, many educators have championed “errorless learning,” advising teachers (and students) to create study conditions that do not permit errors.   The idea embedded in this approach is that if students make errors, they will learn the errors and be prevented (or slowed) in learning the correct information. But research by Nate Kornell, Matthew Hays and Robert Bjork at U.C.L.A. that recently appeared in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition reveals that this worry is misplaced. In fact, they found, learning becomes better if conditions are arranged so that students make errors.

Learn From Failure – Amy Edmondson

The wisdom of learning from failure is incontrovertible. Yet organizations that do it well are extraordinarily rare. This gap is not due to a lack of commitment to learning. Managers in the vast majority of enterprises that I have studied over the past 20 years—pharmaceutical, financial services, product design, telecommunications, and construction companies; hospitals; and NASA’s space shuttle program, among others—genuinely wanted to help their organizations learn from failures to improve future performance. In some cases they and their teams had devoted many hours to after-action reviews, postmortems, and the like. But time after time I saw that these painstaking efforts led to no real change. The reason: Those managers were thinking about failure the wrong way.


6 thoughts on “On Being Resilient and Embracing Failure”

  1. There’s a lot of great information here about how failure can be a great teacher.

    I’d bought into the dogma a bit on how practise must be perfect to be of benefit, but this didn’t match my experience, upon reflection, so I’m not sure how I went along with it.

    Of course, continuing to practise a skill or study an area or apply both in the real world until better results are achieved is the way to go. This often involves great, and sometimes hilarious, failures.

    Failure can be a springboard to growth in so many ways, can’t it?

  2. Thanks for the useful links! Unfortunately, I couldn’t view “Failure: The Secret of Success,” which youtube lists as a private video (requires login).

  3. michelle garcia said:

    Errors should be alowed for learning process.

  4. Error is a learning process. Never be afraid to admit that you have faults

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