Further to Sir Ken Robinson's fabulous TED Talk on education, and further to my presentation on Un-managing and the research I included in it by Malone & Lepper regarding intrinsic motivation, creating risk-positive-failure-forward environments are crucial to innovation.
I had a discussion regarding this a while back with Joshua Schachter (I think it was at ETech, right after I read the chapter on the birth of Del.icio.us from Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days. We were musing on how crucial it is to have the room to fail in order to actually 'discover' anything new and that it appeared from the founder stories that many of them discovered a success by actually failing multiple times (or as a result of a failure itself).
Think of all of the 'innovators' in history - the number of 'failed' experiments!
Living in the valley is like living in a different universe. When I travel around the world, I see smatterings of what I am surrounded by here: pro-risk personalities. And the less 'grounded' people are in their need for certainty, the crazier their ideas seem to be. (now, I'm not saying that crazy = good, just that safe = same old same old) Over and over again, when people ask how they can achieve the silicon valley type of opportunities in their areas, I tell them, "Celebrate failure." Failure is cheaper than ever. Fail often. I often get puzzled looks and a backlash.
Now, I'm not saying that people should aim to fail, but by embracing that possibility, we open ourselves to taking more risks and, thus, succeeding. And the types of risks we take...those matter, too. I still don't believe that we should take needless, stupid risks like mortgaging your house to buy a billboard ad (but that's my call, not yours). We should take risks on ideas and people and following dreams...just to see where they should go.
So, in the discussion with Josh, we laughed about the idea of doing a LoserCamp...a BarCamp designed to celebrate how we've failed along the way. Why we've 'failed'. What we've learnt. And how to allow ourselves to fail more often until we get to the point of a 'win' (and we need to redefine what this means there, too). We need to take a look at the 'failures' and celebrate them as risk takers. As people who have the balls to try something that is unconventional. Were they too early to market? Too late? Spent too much too fast? Didn't spend enough?
What we need to get out of this is NOT a formula for avoiding failure, but a bunch of anecdotes on how we can minimize the impacts of failure in order to fail over and over and over again. AND how we can create opportunities for others to fail as well. Especially in places other than silicon valley, where we inherently laugh in the face of failure (and flaunt it proudly in many cases). We may want safety nets - but not too secure (or they become crutches). We definitely want a more positive take on people who have risked and failed with plenty of encouragement to get up, brush yourself off and go for it again.
So...LoserCamp....when? Where? Anyone want to step forward? I'll totally work alongside you, but I'd rather see a Barcamp newbie take this on. And I want to see it happen in a place outside of the valley. NE1?
Update: I should add why I think it is very important to call this LoserCamp and keep it in the failure space:
#1. We all stumble and fall, but we often think we are alone in doing so. De-stigmatizing 'failure' or the negative outcomes makes it much easier for people to talk about it and connect on that level. Remember my post, 'Forgiving Your Inner Gollum'? I received over 15 personal emails thanking me for being so honest and letting others know they weren't alone.
#2. We aren't just celebrating learning from failure, we are celebrating the act of not being afraid of it. It's a bit defiant to reclaim the negative word. I like that.
It's very much about embracing the chaos. I don't want to paint a pretty picture of it. It's tough. It sucks. And there are costs. But the rewards are high, too. :)