Failure: structure & responsibility
When dealing with failure, you need to create and implement robust structures around discussing the failure. For many, this probably sounds obvious, but so few put the work in to do this. Ensuring success is apparently hard work.
When a failure occurs, feedback needs to be as instantaneous as it can be. In games, you know you’ve failed straight away, how many have played the Dark Souls series and have the words “You died” seared into their retina’s. You know you failed, but the advantage is that you are instantly allowed to retry straight away, building upon what you just learned.
This feedback-experimentation loop may not be as easy to implement in the real world, but fast feedback is necessary. No feedback means the failure is ignored and nothing is learned. Too many corporate environments are guilty of ignoring and avoiding failure at all costs. This leads to a culture of blaming because it is the most efficient way to find the cause, any cause, get rid of it and move on.
Also, a false concept that accepting failure is a sign of weakness and promotes low performance. And that failing at all is a shameful and often times final event.
None of these are positive experiences…Yet somehow in a game, we receive direct feedback, usually, visually, we have a moment to reflect on what we tried previously and miraculously our performance increases because we have developed an inherent need to succeed. We need to prove that we can overcome the challenge.
This structure of fast feedback, once a failure has happened, allows for the responsibility of the failure to be understood, embraced and built upon. We learn from mistakes and correct them as we move along.
What this creates is a paradigm shift that failing does not need to be shameful. Gamifying the event of failure allows for a positive learning experience. The individual develops a growth mindset as a result and a level of empathy is fostered in learning to understand where it went wrong rather than developing apathy for retrying or learning that a non-positive outcome should be punished.
Failure & social/ wisdom
What often happens when you fail in the real world is that you become isolated. This for many is a reason to fear failure. Being alone when something hasn’t gone well is a terrible feeling. When this happens, no educational value is gained from the failure. Allowing for communication and community building offers the ability to disseminate information so that perhaps others can avoid the pitfalls that you encountered.
Now you may be thinking, but there are games that are only single-player, there is no community there to communicate with when you fail, isn’t that also isolating? The reason here is that so many games in fact organically create communities around them because people enjoy playing them and learning from their mistakes to go further in the game. Yet for some strange reason when we fail in the real world the notion often is that this should be dealt with in solitaire. Very few communities organically grow around corporate failures or educational stumbling blocks. (Some do but are viewed with a sense that those they need it clearly aren’t clever enough to follow the traditional method).
When considering how to implement game-like concepts with failure in the real world, ensure that all failure is a communal experience. When you work in a team, you may fail or succeed together, but at least you are always learning together. A solid motivator for learning anything is relatedness with others.
The idea of “2 heads are better than 1”, experiments, failures, and success need to be verbalized out loud, discussed, brainstorming solutions and analyzing problems are all part of the learning experience.
By doing these various steps and activities we learn that failure teaches us that making a decision is not easy and that decisions, great and small, all have consequences. This is a lesson worth learning at any age, not just children. We can all benefit from the knowledge that experimentation and failure open’s the mind to multiple, possible solutions, each attempt at success is another path to achieving it. It is developing this sense of persistence that results from embracing failure.