GLOSS Issue 19 DEC 2014-JAN 2015 - Page 82

Failure is an error in design We tend to personalise failure when we experience it. For all the corporate world’s talk of failure being an essential ingredient to success, it is seldom greeted with the enthusiasm of a student learning a valuable lesson. The language is often remi niscent of the breakup speech, ‘It’s not you … it’s me!’ So instead we look to apportion blame, limit damage and, depending on the political environment we’re working in, find a scapegoat. That’s very much how we build our cultures inside organisations too. So, given that so much of what passes for strategy in the worlds of business and personal development is fraught with faux science, ineffective processes that fight against human nature and systems that set us up for failure, what do we do now? We would like to suggest that we need to change environments and systems, not people. Rather than ignoring or denying our foibles, weaknesses and bad habits, we should instead be designing our systems with them in mind. If we assume that failure is simply part of the process (and we should), then rather than planning for the best-case scenario (those days when we are filled with willpower, charisma, clarity and courage) we should instead plan in such a way that we can be successful on days when we are just average, middle of the road or plain old run of the mill. In other words, we need to design for being selfish, scared and stupid. Published by WILEY International, Selfish, Scared & Stupid is available now in paperback, RRP $25.95, from all good bookstores and online at