In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Learning is a process that takes time. And comes with a large dose of failure.
It is often written that failing is learning. Yet, this is not correct. One doesn’t necessarily cause the other. It is possible, and desirable, to learn from failures. And many important learnings come only at the expense of failing in one way or the other. However, not every failure produces a learning. In fact, I believe that most failures produce no learnings in a business environment.
In a tough competitive environment, failure is looked upon as a weakness. This happens both in sports, as in business. It is often covered with other more positive layers/achievements and quickly dismissed. It is even often put aside purposely as not to carry with it “negative thoughts” that might endanger a future achievement. And, in a large organization, the failure/learning is already undermined by the thinly spread accountability on big projects. And yet, learning is the most vital step in progress. Otherwise, the mistakes of the past are just doomed to be repeated.
In my opinion, to achieve true learnings from failures, there are 3 important characteristics one must have: humility, awareness and detachment.
Many of us never take the time to reflect on our failures. In our business life, time is a scarce resource. And learning is a process that takes time. But there are always more important things to do. Tasks pile up. Even to just manage an e-mail account is a challenge. Then, when work finishes, most people struggle to balance the little amount of time they have left between family, friends and hobbies. So there is rarely enough time to dedicate to learning. Let alone good learning. To start all over again.