I’m not a good cook. But last night, I attempted to make Chicken Tikka Masala because I think it’s delicious, and I loved the idea of being able to make it at home. Unfortunately, things did not go well. It turned out so terribly, in fact, that I’m not even going to eat the leftovers. (And I almost never throw away leftovers!) It was a definite, unqualified failure.

So yeah, I’m kind of unhappy about it. But as one of my coworkers informed me, “That’s how you learn.” And he’s right. When you’re trying to cook something new, you learn from making mistakes. The same is true in the workplace.

Author Jeff Stibel has written about the importance of failure in the workplace. He believes that it’s more instructive than success. He argues that when we succeed, we’re often not even sure why. We’re happy about it, but we don’t really take the time to analyze exactly why things went right. In contrast, when we fail, we tend to spend a lot of time thinking about it. We carefully identify the missteps that were made, and we learn from them.

Stibel believes that people have to be free to fail. People who are afraid of failing (or are afraid of being punished for their mistakes) never take chances or try anything new. In order for a company to be innovative and successful, employees need to be free to take risks and occasionally fail. And they have to be encouraged to talk about those failures rather than trying to gloss over them or hide them. We all experience failures from time to time. As Thomas Edison allegedly said about his attempts to design a light blub, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” Failure is nothing to fear. It’s critical to success.


Stibel, J. (2016, March 25). How bringing failure into your workplace can maximize success. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffstibel/2016/03/25/how-bringing-failure-into-your-workplace-can-maximize-success/#392870ae5628