4/8/15 Lecture: Prof. Monica Worline

"Courage to Explore: What Organizational Research

Tells Us about Learning from Failure?"

Prof. Monica Worline

Center for Positive Organizations (University of Michigan)

April 8th, 2015

Even in organizations that believe in the need for experimentation and learning from failure, leaders and managers have a hard time embracing failure. Because we hold such ingrained assumptions about failure as bad, we often respond to failures as reasons to stop working—even when we know that isn’t true. Yet organizations have the ability to help us shift our assumptions about failure as bad by way of how they structure daily practices related to learning. This suggests that our lab practices matter a great deal for how we respond to failures and how much we learn from our experiments. Organizational research shows that leaders who value experimental learning still have a difficult time avoiding blame for failures that create obstacles or setbacks—lip service to learning is easier to create than courageous leadership. In order to truly thrive in science, we have to be willing to experiment and fail in the service of learning. How can we structure our labs and run our research teams in ways that help us find the courage to explore? This lecture will introduce findings from a number of organizational scholars who have investigated the personal, group, and unit practices and organizational factors that help people systematically learn and transform failure into the courage to explore. Monica Worline’s research is uniquely focused on how organizations enable courageous experimentation for employees, and her hope is that this lecture will show you new ways to tap into the inspiration and perseverance required to move your work into new frontiers.

Related article: "Strategies for Learning from Failure," Harvard Business Review (4/2011)