Failure is a negative result of action or inaction. This is a universal experience that has several common variations:
Unmitigated FailureAn unmitigated failure is a loss with no bright side. It can be a mistake to try to see the positive in things that are truly terrible. Some failures are completely negative. In this case, it is possible to just accept the loss and move forward.
Unrecognized FailureA failure that goes undetected. For example, an organization that suffers from hubris such that successes are celebrated and failures ignored. This is a dangerous situation as failures reoccur and impacts escalate.
Creeping FailureCreeping failure is a loss that occurs slowly over time. This can go unrecognized or people may simply accept the failure because they have so much time to adjust to lower expectations.
A failure that triggers other failures. This can be prevented by building up resilience.
Vicious CycleA vicious cycle is a repeated process whereby failures cause things to get worse causing other failures. For example, poverty is viewed as a vicious cycle whereby a lack of resources causes a lack of education, employment and health problems and that cause more poverty.
Repeated FailureA failure that is repeated many times despite opportunities to correct the problem. This can occur due to inaction, resistance to change, force of habit or attempts to address the failure that are ineffective.
If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.A failure that results in learning, improvement and increased resilience to future failures. For example, risk taking individuals often gain experience from their failures and become more resilient to failure with time.
~ Henry David Thoreau,
Managed FailureA failure that has been predicted and managed as a risk. For example, an individual who tries something new as a calculated risk that is likely to generate valuable knowledge.
Fast, Cheap & SafeManaged failures can be designed to fail fast, cheap and safe. This is a common approach to innovation whereby businesses try brave ideas with small approaches such as prototypes that aren't going to have much impact if they fail.
Burning BridgesBurning bridges is the act of purposely designing potential failures to be high impact. This is done to improve motivation. Burning bridges is an analogy to an army that burns bridges so that they themselves have no route of retreat such that they are forced to face the enemy. Generally speaking, burning bridges is a poor strategy because it increases your risk exposure in exchange for a questionable increase in motivation.
Success in Failure
Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.Success in failure is when you fail to achieve a goal but achieve something else by mistake. For example, chemist William Henry Perkin was trying to discover a cure for malaria in 1856 when he happened upon a brilliant purple color. He was able to see this as an opportunity and marketed the chemical as a commercial dye he named Perkin's mauve. By the late 19th century, this became an extremely popular color such that the 1890s is occasionally referred to as the "mauve decade."
― Jules Verne, A Journey to the Center of the Earth
Retrospective SuccessA failure that feels like a loss at the time it occurs with it later being revealed to have positive impact. This is associated with individuals who reach a state of self-fulfillment and realize looking back that their failures helped them to reach this happiness.
This is the complete list of articles we have written about thinking.
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An overview of problem solving with examples.
The common types of research.
An overview of cause and effect with examples.
An overview of thinking with examples.
The definition of big picture with examples.
The definition of the path of least resistance with examples.
The definition of Keep It Simple Stupid with examples.
Examples of different types of thinking.
A list of common problem solving skills.
A list of decision making techniques.
The definition of automaticity with examples.
The definition of inaction with examples.
The definition of indecision with examples.
The definition of moot point with examples.
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