Creative Project and Design Management

Why failure is a learning design sprint in disguise

Recently I failed twice. 

Let’s rephrase that: recently I learned twice.

A little while ago, and with a lot of enthusiasm, I joined a change management tender for a large American insurance company looking to relocate their offices. While they’d already developed plans for the move and were about to sign fit-out contracts, they were reaching out for extra support in this transition. The goal? To help their employees embrace and thrive in the new location. 

After exploring my network for the right partner to join me in this adventure, I submitted a proposal together with ambuzzador.

I was eager to approach the change process with a strong emphasis on the role of space. The way we look / experience / move through space can contribute positively (or negatively) to different behaviours at work. 

Our big idea? Predispose employees to embrace change and achieve happiness at work by designing a space that truly empathises with their needs.  

We proposed combining both the human side of change and the spatial dimensions in which professionals work, making the inextricable connection between these two themes. To propel a new way of engaging with/on the workfloor, we proposed a warm yet creative mix of subtle visuals, familiarity, socially-enabling spaces, communicative spaces, and an overall novelty-generating office. 

10 lessons my failure sprint taught me

Long story short, the client hiring us for change management was too afraid of the change ahead (ironic, huh?), and we didn’t win the pitch. But I learned a lot:

  1. 2020 is the year of following my curiosity and joining others with my expertise in hand. 
  2. In a world saturated with words, expressing ideas simply is disruptive in itself.
  3. Time and context play a key role in proposing disruption.
  4. You don’t have to be directly engaged to disrupt, sometimes change starts after you leave. 
  5. The only possible change comes from building a new story
  6. Change demands predisposition and vulnerability, but most of all responsibility.
  7. Change is slow food for minds.
  8. Change is a learning curve.
  9. Change is always a social act
  10.  Personal learning is one thing, but change happens together.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Right after my first failure-learning sprint, it happened again. I decided to become a water polo referee (oh, the wildly unexpected adventures we take on as mothers!). In my tunnel vision, I downloaded all the downloadables. I read Water Polo For Dummies. I scoured websites. I took online courses. I read the entire water polo rulebook a couple of times, in both Italian and Dutch.

Then I took the test. And failed. 

I took it again. And failed again.

For a chronic test-acer like me, the experience was pretty harsh on my pride. My first reaction was to study even more (the perfectionist’s comfort zone). But then I decided to switch tactics. I joined forces, simplified, and shifted the focus to learning from others. Over a number of afternoons spent sipping tea, I watched matches poolside and asked a water polo trainer to explain the basics to me. 

Guess what? I passed the test. With a big fat 95%, in fact!

By failing I run faster, redesigning myself once again.


Photos by Tom Crew on Unsplash.

Next Post

Leave a Reply

© 2024 Cipenso.

Theme by Anders Norén