Failure is a subject that causes two opposite reactions: either it is about hiding or it is presumed as if it were a war medal that is worth teaching to everyone who can. We go from one extreme to the other with stridency: it is seen as a fatal issue that causes embarrassment or is appreciated as a kind of trophy and is neither one thing nor the other. Usually, when someone tells their success stories, they narrate them seasoning with failures and setbacks as if by showing them off, they were turning up the volume to triumph. In these strident terms, many myths and exaggerations are often hidden. In reality, there are few serious voices that tell us how to approach the failure of a project.
The first thing we should notice is that failure is common in business. We know that out of a hundred businesses opening in January, only three will continue to operate in December. In addition, ninety-five percent of entrepreneurs are not prepared to develop a business. These figures are an open secret, but it is a rare topic in university classrooms. Of course, no house of studies would like to advertise itself as the place where you are taught to address the failure of projects. That is why the topic of failure is not included in the curriculum of business schools.
However, more than fifty percent of new companies fail to make the profits promised to business investors. In addition, close to zero percent of the lessons learned from those failures have been used to teach college applicants about startups and entrepreneurs are not told about the risks of facing the harsh face of the fiasco. This is unfortunate, both for those who are interested in entrepreneurship. Many people can become entrepreneurs with a skewed understanding of the risks and uncertainties that await them as startup leaders.
In training and coaching topics, there is an incredible wealth of lessons to share, not only about certain decision-making patterns and behavior that can lead to failure, but also about how to fail well when you're among the more than one hundred percent of startups that don't make it. That is, it is not about training people to fail, the other way around: it is about preparing people and showing them ways to recompose what goes wrong. It is to make them aware that a failure does not equal an end point, it is more like a point and followed.
At Harvard Business School they have begun to dig up this largely untapped vein of gold in business education. Thomas R. Eisenmann and Lindsay N. Hyde, who are taking an elective course called Business Failure. The course title clashes and short-circuits, but what they seek is to guide and explain how this unique topic is better preparing entrepreneurs for their future careers.
According to these professors, the first thing they address is a topic that does not seem so entrepreneurial and yet it is. We don't always talk about the human side of business failure. Usually, we get these stories in which everything was a scenario like a dark pit that was transformed into a glittering success. Little is said about what it takes to get out of there. No one talks about what it feels like to be sunk into the notion that the project lost. Even worse, in the rush to get out of that situation, there are no moments of reflection and deeper holes begin to be dug.
For any entrepreneur, the probability of the project failing is very high. So, it's an equally important question to think about: What is that like to fail well, what does that entail, and how do you return personally and professionally from failure? Because losing is crushing, it is bitter, and it is not an easy drink to assimilate. As much as they want to sweeten the situation and that losing is not something fatal or terminal, there is nothing sweet or uplifting about it. Nothing. There is no one who chooses to lose if he has the option to choose.
We can't cover our eyes or blindfold ourselves. It is best to know the truth from the beginning: for any entrepreneur, the probability that the project will fail is very high. So, it's an equally important question to think about: How come you fail well, what does that entail, and how do you come back personally and professionally from that failure? Because failing is overwhelming.
To arrive at these answers, you have to ask yourself the uncomfortable question. This is how the failure of a project is addressed. What did I do wrong? Thus, in the first person and taking responsibility for the horns. It's not about asking rhetorical and martyring questions. It is about taking the time to analyze what went wrong, what element was derailed, what was left into account, what remains to be done, what remains to be done, what remains to be done.
There is one concept that can help a lot: uncomfortable silence. It is that truth that everyone is silent and knows is wrong. If we manage to break through that barrier and find out, we will be heading in the right direction. It's about addressing this question of how do entrepreneurs fail well and how do they bounce back from failure? But he goes in search of the useful answer: he does not look for the punishing and quarrelsome whip or the smug glow.
In addition, it is necessary to take into account the social, emotional and personal network requirements that allow people to go from "I have failed this time, I will never start a company again", to becoming a really experienced serial founder who can take all that learning that comes from failure and apply it to your next project.
I think it's vital for those really passionate, high-performing entrepreneurs to have the opportunity to think about failure and really normalize the experience of failing and learning and recovering. Contemplating failure with objective eyes, without adornment or exaggeration leads us to understand, if we reflect, what made us lose the way, understand at what moment we got lost and resume the route. If we do this, we will not guarantee success, that would be lying, but we will be able to find out and take the helm to get out of a bad scenario. Perhaps, this way we will be able to improve the success figures and prevent failure from being so popular among entrepreneurs.
Of course, to approach failure in a better way requires two ingredients: courage and humility to understand and recompose. Today, given the circumstances, the topic becomes increasingly relevant.