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Designing with failure in mind

Failure is a valuable experience. We learn more when things don’t go right than we learn when everything goes as planned. Unfortunately, the concept of failure has negative connotations. We find it less than desirable and strive to avoid it, sometimes to the point of paralysis. And thereby miss the opportunities to learn. What has been your most valuable recent failure?
Jim McGee has an interesting post on the designing with failure in mind: “Human systems are interesting and effective because they are resilient. Good designers allow for the reality of human strengths and weaknesses and factor both into their designs. Too many poor or lazy designers ignore or gloss over failure modes. How many project plans have you seen, for example, that assume no one on the project team will ever be out sick?”

One Comment

  1. Clark Quinn wrote:

    George, looking to accommodate error is important. Failure is too, particularly for learning as you suggest. I remember a great story about a small firm that rang a bell, not when the mistake was made but when the lesson was learned. You don’t want to celebrate failure, but you do want to acknowledge it. I know another very large software firm with an aggressive culture where it’s anathema to talk about failure. Consequently, they keep making the same mistakes!

    It’s important in learning as well; learners benefit from seeing examples where there are mistakes, backtracking, and repair. But how much of that do you see in elearning? Not near enough.

    So, prevent failure if possible, but support learning from it too!

    Friday, March 28, 2008 at 1:31 pm | Permalink