Thursday, 10 April 2008

Is there glory in failure?

The day I posted here about the difficulties of decision-making and the way infallibility eludes us, I got home to the RSA journal in the post, and an article about The joy of failure. I'd also just heard John E. McGrath talk (at the excellent Pride of Place Festival) about the aproach of Contact Theatre in Manchester to making work. You can get a real sense of that approach, and the energy it generates, just by looking at their very fine website. He spoke about the need for uncertainty and risk.

I put this, though, alongside the risk-averse nature of large parts of our world. Take funding - lots of risk there, in all directions. Put in a conservative budget - or vision - you think funders will accept and run the risk you won't be able to do what you need. Be realistic (demanding the impossible, as the saying goes) and run the risk of getting turned down because the risks are too great. Fund something big that might struggle or even go bust and run the risk of finding yourself in front of the Public Accounts Committee or being dressed down by your trustees. Withdraw funding and run the risk of judicial review if you're a public body.

Both the political atmosphere and media are, it seems to me, increasingly unforgiving of failure. Perhaps a project celebrating some of our glorious failures is a necessary and useful thing right now, central as failure may be to excellence, learning and business growth to name but three?

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