Enabling failing

Yesterday afternoon the group began with a webinar input from Thomas A Gilliford entitled “Give permission, not forgiveness”. The webinar focused on the idea of enabling people to be comfortable with failure and take calculated risks in order to achieve innovation in their work.

Thomas spoke about the approaches used widely in the technology industry where innovation and failure are actively encouraged and there is a culture of having a go without being exactly sure of what the outcome will be. In the UK there are now examples of where public services are taking on a similar approach however often this is being led by senior management and HR departments but not always brought into by all staff.

Thomas said that he believes that this is due to fear of failure or looking bad. He spoke about people being willing to take some risks but often not with their professional, as it is the things which provides financial income to their lives, so it is a big risk for people to take. Thomas went on to site examples where companies are holding regular “churches of failure” where staff come together to share their failures and some organisations who are financially incentivising people to take risks in order. He felt that

At the end of Thomas’ input the participants had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss what Thomas had said. You can listen to the webinar in full below.

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Failure conference

During the final session of the day the group came back together to share examples of when they have failed and what they learnt from the experience. Three participants shared stories from their professional experiences including the who, what, why, where, when and how to give the full context. After each stories was shared the other participants had the opportunity to ask questions and dig deeper to find the learning.

Following the sharing of the stories the group discussed the input from Thomas, the stories that had been shared and further topics related to failure. Some people felt that the reflective practice that is already used widely in youth work and youth trainings is already has some similarities to the “failure conferences” that Thomas has mentioned.

The group also discussed that when a particular training has been delivered for a long time and is proven to be effective there is not necessarily the need to innovate for the participants. They felt that sometimes the innovation comes because trainers are bored of the material. It was acknowledged that this is important for participants as well because if the training team are bored this can sometimes rub off on the participants as well. The group noted that there were particular challenges in relation to KA1 applications as Erasmus+ expects the application to be new so changes have to be made only to support the funding criteria, not to provide new innovations in the materials.

The participants moved on to discuss the fact that as youth workers and youth trainers they can only provide opportunities for the young people they work with, they cannot force people to take them. The context of the work is also a key factor in success – when the context is difficult the chance of failure is higher. The group agreed that there is the need to let go of failures and not become too hung up on them, while still taking the learning onboard and incorporating into future practice.

There was also a brief discussion about how ethical it is to test new methodologies on real participants. Thomas described this as “playing with live ammunition” in the sense that if you make a mistake it can potentially have long lasting effects on the participants you are working with. Some of the group felt that maybe this Guild and seminars such as this could provide a space for testing methodologies in a less “live” environment.

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