Hello from the nation’s capital! DC/SLA is excited to be contributing all of this week’s FutureReady365 posts (thanks to our future-thinking Communications Secretary, Chris Vestal). We are a diverse community of 800+ information professionals, with members from D.C., Maryland, Virginia, as well as 30 other U.S. states and 12 countries. You’ll see this diversity reflected in the range of future ready ideas presented in posts throughout the week. We hope our posts will spark some thought and conversation and, of course, your comments. Most of all, we want to help keep the spark of the FutureReady blog alive – a spark that’s become a fire, gathering us around it to brainstorm our way into the future. — Mary Talley, DC/SLA President (2011)
by Hannah Sommers, Washington, DC Chapter, News Division
To be ready for the future, we should learn better how to fail. Our culture seems to be taking a moment to consider failure, from the New York Times Magazine feature “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?” to widespread reflection on Steve Jobs’ “wilderness” years between stints at Apple. A recent estimate suggests that Google fails 36% of the time. And finally, who hasn’t been exposed to an earnest or sarcastic usage of the #FAIL! expression in a conversation, or on Twitter itself? The zeitgeist has us debating – casually and more seriously – the value of failure.
It’s also something we’ve been doing in our project work at NPR. No one – in management or in project teams – wants to see failure happen on a large scale. Yet, if we fear failure and avoid it at all costs we won’t challenge ourselves to explore ideas we’re not completely sure of. We won’t enjoy the rewards that creative work should bring.
At NPR we’re using an Agile process framework to help expose and contain failure. Ultimately, we want to work without fear of failing. We want to accept small failures as a natural and expected part of the creative process. The Agile framework provides a safety net of rapid development cycles and quick course corrections. There’s lots of good documentation out there on Agile (even a posting on this site), so I won’t go in-depth here. What I will add are a few thoughts on how our profession’s approach to failure could evolve to benefit the communities we work with – to make us all more Future Ready.
If we are not afraid to fail . . . it will probably feel weird for a while.
If we are not afraid to fail . . . we might start thinking about risk differently.
If we are not afraid to fail . . . we might think about our jobs differently.
If we are not afraid to fail . . . we might look at the failures of others differently.
If we are not afraid to fail . . . we might conclude that not trying can be a sort of failure.
If you are not afraid to fail . . . other people will probably want you on their team.
If you are not afraid to fail . . . you will really be in control of that which you can control.
If you are not afraid to fail . . . you will actually fail now and then.
If you are not afraid to fail . . . there may be pain.
If you are not afraid to fail . . . there may be joy.
If you are not afraid to fail . . . you will learn to recover from failures.
Hannah Sommers is Program Coordinator in the NPR Library, where she coordinates the product development efforts of NPR’s Library teams. She serves as DC-SLA Treasurer and tweets at @hsommers.