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Let's talk about failure – it's normal

Failure should be encouraged. It is often through understanding our failures that we become successful. FailCon celebrates failure.

Photo of Sean Bolton
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How to encourage failure is a challenging question. FailCon's answer is to get people talking about their failures. People attending the conference learn to embrace their failures, then all of the talks get published so everyone can view them.

The value created here is that we begin to feel less alone in our failures during the creative process. We learn to embrace failures and use them as a tool to become more successful. FailCon is one step toward normalizing and learning from failure, instead of keeping it a secret of top innovators.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Clint Artes

I met a guy at a church youth camp once. He was loud and abrupt and would say/sing at the top of his range at any moment. And he always had a smile on his face. Upon asking someone about him, he had lost the mental faculty that make him embarrassed (and incidentally didn't follow social conventions). In retrospect, it was probably quite liberating - not having any fear of retribution, or embarrassment, or scorn.

Perhaps we aren't so much afraid of failing, but we don't like the way it makes us feel (embarrassed, inferior, etc).

Photo of LREI 5th Graders

I agree, If you have a creative idea and you fail, you would learn from your mistakes and when you try again you won't make the same mistake and most likely succeed. That is why failure is also a good thing because you learn from your mistakes and think, I will not make the same mistake as last time.

Photo of Hao Dinh

Sean, we are experimenting with prototyping visual ways of connecting similar inspirations using Pinterest – all in order to enable OpenIDEATORS to better collaborate and build on each other’s inspirations.

Your posting is part of the "Embracing Failure" Pinterest board. Check out the field note detailing the Pinterest board.

Photo of Louise Wilson

always keen to support this way of thinking ;-)

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great share, Sean. Here at OpenIDEO, we're big fans of embracing failure as part of creativity and iteration. The Admitting Failure initiative has been another interesting one in this space:

Photo of An Old Friend

Tina Seelig (professor at Stanford) requires her students to write a failure résumé. With each failure, the student has to write what (s)he learned from the experience. Seelig writes that "failures are also a sign that you have taken on challenges that expand your skills." (

If you are really pushing yourself beyond the familiar safety or comfort zone, there is a chance that your efforts will meet with failure. By the way, I have always appreciated the distinction that "failure is an event, not a person" (Zig Ziglar).

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I like the idea of embracing failure. It is a huge part of innovation and the design process. I feel "failure" still has some negative connotations (adult brain!), but I think there could be a good way to incorporate failure with not being afraid to take risks and explore those "crazy" ideas. Like we did when we were still children.