Embracing failure?

A Marketplace story that aired this morning on my way to work got me thinking about failure. The story was about the website Refer.ly, and it’s current status as a zombie website. A zombie site is one that still functions as if it were competitive, active, and relevant, but will never break out from its minuscule user-base.

Is it okay to embrace failure? Or should lack of success be viewed as something to always avoid?

Sectors of the tech industry consider failure a “badge of honor,” to be celebrated as risk-taking adventure. Blazing new trails often leads to failure. According to the Wall Street Journal, three out of four startups fail.

The question for Advancement/Communications is whether this same ratio is applicable for projects within our larger organization? Do three out of four projects fail? Is this an acceptable rate? If we are batting higher than .250 are we taking on enough risk to be innovative? Are we trying enough new things to approach this 1/4 rate of failure? And should this be something we are aiming for?

The tech industry and venture capital may tussle over the correct way to celebrate or punish startup failure, but here in higher education Advancement/Communications failure is seen as a bit more taboo.

What is your tolerance for failure?

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