In the #openvolcano10 conference Kevlin gave a little lightning talk on failure. He pointed out that although culturally deeply ingrained the idea of learning from your mistakes is actually flawed. People who have experienced failures in the past are no more likely, and sometimes less likely, to succeed later than a first-timer.
I pretty much agree with Kevlin’s point that if we indeed learn in case of failure it is not the failure itself but the wider context that provides the real learning.
On the other hand we have been saying for some time now that failure is an important element of the agile environment. People must be allowed to fail and failure must be acceptable.
Trying to connect the dots I wonder if the two are actually compatible? I think they are. Acceptance of failure is important but failure does not provide learning. Instead if we truly and fully believe that failure is a valid option we are by far less likely to actually fail. If we are no longer under pressure to always get it right we will be more inclined to try new things. It is only by trying and experimenting that we have a chance to do something differently and to eventually succeed. It is then that success, that correct solution that we learn from but we would never got there without failure.