What's that they say about history and being "bound to repeat it" unless you learn from it?
Great recap about FailCon. '10 at Wired.
Without pausing to reminisce about several travel industry examples—I suppose we could all do that for hours, but let's save it for the open bar at NBTA or ACTE—I think the industry would do well to openly embrace the approach of FailCon. After all, we've all burned our fingers yet we still show up to work. My wife and I recently were talking about the fate of the Concorde. Supersonic passenger flight was very far from a failure—it was a triumph of engineering. The thing flew passengers for years! Yes, there came a point at which it wasn't cost-effective anymore, but that certainly didn't make it a failure. There is a lot to learn from experiences like that, and maybe some innovator will figure out how to make supersonic flight economically feasible again, I don't know. Planes certainly aren't getting any cheaper ... but I'm not here to solve those sorts of problems.
There's a strong and interesting message here: solid business is not for people who aren't resilient. Everyone loves a hardworking, dynamic, starry-eyed, inventor. (I wish I could add "young" to the mix, but I don't think age has anything to do with it.) Everyone likes a committed, enthusiastic type. Not many people like individuals who promote a well-vetted, rational approach to a solution which has a high likelihood of success—in other words, someone who has seen battle and knows that good ideas and good teams still sometimes fall flat. We (and investors and decision-makers) like the fearless peerless type.
Here's why: We like easy answers. Even the smartest among us—yes, we do. We like to root for the "underdog" (real or perceived). We like hero stories; and we like them so much that we lose our better judgment sometimes in following them.
FailCon bravely takes a different path. To admit failure and learn from it is to be courageous. Denying failure or forgetting it is unproductive, and weak. It's terrible, but it seems like there exists a culture in business of fear and evading accountability. It would seem that managers are rewarding individuals for creating the illusion that they have the Midas Touch, or that their involvement guarantees a positive outcome. This is unrealistic. Faulty logic often seems sexy and wonderful. We all like to believe in miracles and heroes. FailCon's approach is one that could truly pull people together in admission of fault, but without shame.
To create progress and motivation, they don't follow the message of Bobby McFerrin:
What we all need more of is the wisdom of the Courage Wolf: Fail seven times; stand up eight.
Road Warrior • Miami • Madrid • Amadeus.com