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Admitting Failure

What can we learn by sharing stories of failure? The Admitting Failure website collects & shares stories to leverage learning in the social development sector.

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Admitting Failure helps folks in the social development sector fail forward by:

1. Operating in a safe environment for testing risky innovative ideas

2. Recognizing failures early

3. Admitting failures open and honestly

4. Learning from these failures

5. Adapting actions in order to improve upon risky innovative ideas

They're keen to prevent scenarios like this: "Somewhere in Tanzania, a sanitation program proves ineffective. That result isn’t shared, because it may upset a donor. As a result, the same program is implemented two years later in rural Ghana. Then again in Mali. Failures are repeated because we hide them." ... "The development community is failing…to learn from failure. Instead of recognizing these experiences as learning opportunities, we hide them away out of fear and embarrassment."

Admitting Failure provides opportunities for viewers to browse, submit and discuss stories of failure. How might we provide opportunities for web start-ups to learn from each others failures? How might we foster a safe environment for testing risky innovative ideas & sharing learnings?


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Right on! There are so many cases of failure (and success) among startups and their founders. If only new entrepreneurs could tap into this wealth of information! Definitely an important mission that Admitting Failure has undertaken.

A couple things. First, is there any reason not to share successes as well as failures? If we only focus on failure, and all of the different ways we can fail, it seems we may always find some reason NOT to pursue our passion and play it safe. There are plenty of lessons from failure that if you look at another example, with similar conditions, another company succeeded. The key lies in understanding which conditions and decisions were different between the two.

Second, it's important that entrepreneurs are able to get relevant information efficiently. This could be tricky. There are so many examples out there, it's difficult to know which lessons apply to whom. Sure, there's some industry-specific filters you could apply, but I bet sometimes the most valuable and relevant information for a given innovator will come from a totally unrelated startup. I guess one option would be to filter ideas based on stage of development. In fact maybe it's better to divide one entrepreneur's story into lots of bite-sized parts that apply to specific situations, so an entrepreneur doesn't have to read articles 90% irrelevant to their situation to find the 10% that's relevant. Plus, if they see the 10% first, they will be more likely to care about the other 90%.

Efficient transfer of experience and advice is one of several things we're trying to do with Zaplings. We really want to be a facilitator that connects people in fun, relevant ways to each other and to valuable resources. Admitting Failure seems set to become one of these valuable resources, and a partnership between us could be extremely valuable. We would help people discover Admitting Failure, and Admitting Failure could help our producers' ideas blossom.

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