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Stories of failure

 

Disciplines > Storytelling > Storytelling in organizations > Stories of failure

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Stories of failure tell about things that did not work. They may be stories of big failure or small, personal failure.

The stories may simply tell the facts or may well also explain why the failure happened. They may also include details of the consequences for the people involved.

Example

A famous story from IBM told of a man who made a $10M error. He was hauled up before the big boss where he expected to be sacked. Pre-empting this, he apologized and offered his resignation. Refusing the resignation, the boss said 'Goodness, man, we can't lose you now! We've just spent $10M on your education!'

Discussion

One of the significant elements of such stories is what happens to the people involved. If they were blamed and suffered significant punishment, then this becomes a cautionary tale that warns people not to fail. The problem with this is that the real warning is not so much not to fail as not to be caught.

This can result in dysfunctional politicking where the slippery soap of blame is passed around with pointing figures that point anywhere but to the person pointing.

More positive stories tell about the learning gained and encourage reasonable failure for this purpose.

See also

 

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