failure equals learning

Failure Equals a Learning Experience

Should failure in learning really “not be an option”? Absolutely not! In most cases, it is actually a very worthwhile for someone to not succeed the first time they try something. Doesn’t that mimic real life?  While there is a stigma attached to “being a failure”, failing is what accomplishes the greatest amount of learning.

Let me give you a personal example. Ten (plus) years ago, I was responsible for managing and forecasting a business for a large retailer. I was new to my role and to the forecasting process and there was no best practice or training to walk me through the process. In preparing my first forecast, I made a significant error in my calculations, which resulted in me grossly overstating my total receipts. The consequence? A pretty serious conversation with my boss, a bruised ego and a HUGE learning moment that made me 10-times more successful in my role.

So, why does this matter to the world of learning? I’ve heard the the phrase “fail fast and fail often” used frequently lately, as a way to encourage people to take small risks, learn quickly from what didn’t work and then make adjustments by altering their approach or process. Well, the same approach can be true when it comes to creating effective learning solutions – ones that result in truly changing behavior.

How can you build in a “safe place” for learners to “fail fast”, so they can learn quickly from their mistakes and know the best action to take next?  Here are 3 quick tips to consider:

  1. Start your lesson with a question your learner doesn’t know how to answer yet. This immediately will make them uncomfortable. They will pay close attention to the feedback answer provided and to the content in the course that you provide to them afterward.
  2. Ask learners to do something “new” in a safe environment for a quick rebound. It sets them up for a small failure, but if you if give them the right tools and resources to learn, they can rebound quickly and see the failure as a learning opportunity.
  3. Ask learners to do something with limited information for stronger retention.When learners figure out why what they didn’t know is important, they will have a learning experience that will “stick”. “Sticky” learning is like Velcro – meaning it creates a foundation for other ideas stick to that often improves retention.

Share how failing at something led to great transformation.  How has failure affected your own learning? How do you incorporate it into how you create learning solutions?  We’re curious to hear from you!