Failing Forward: The New Venture Strategy

By Jessica Tangelder, Founder, Knowledge Activator

In every organisation I work with, every team I train, no matter from which culture or background; the majority of the people perceive making mistakes as embarrassing, something we should rather hide than advocate. There are many powerful exercises that unlock your ‘prevent-mistakes-mechanisms,’ a way to test if you as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur are indeed open to embracing mistakes rather than avoiding them. During my workshops, I do not advocate we should make mistakes on purpose, however I do invite people to take risks, go into action, try new things and to be open to share mistakes for others to learn from and for yourself to take the pressure off: it is not the end of the world!

During my exercises, I can often tell by body language that we give ourselves a hard time about making mistakes. Making a tiny mistake is often seen as a big deal, which your body perceives as a ‘traumatic experience’. This is not a constructive reflex response for Start-ups and SME’s that have the biggest advantage of being so small and flexible they are able to pivot their strategy at any moment in time. In many companies they talk about pilots, meanwhile they do not share the ‘bad’ practices, or better said: ‘brilliant mistakes’. Failing forward is only of use when what is learned is openly shared!

…A rigid work environment kills innovation
Besides decreasing a learning curve, a work environment that is risk assertive, is often perceived as unsafe and scary. When I had my first ‘adult’ job for the Ministry and my manager told me, “Here we cannot afford to make mistakes!” because of this pressure, I can assure you: the biggest mistakes were yet to come… Especially people that are highly sensitive to their environment and their energy is harmed by these guerrilla managers. The ‘fear-to-make-mistakes’ syndrome pops-up. If an environment is more empathetic for mistakes or various perspectives and the attitude is: everything you try and do is great and let’s learn together, you facilitate personal and business development right on the spot! I like to take the examples of Pixar: saying ‘Yes-and……!’ at least three times before you get critical.

Fortunately I am my own boss and when my perfectionism kicks in, I have my co-colleagues that make me aware of the fact: enjoying the processes is of more importance than the goal itself. My favourite quote therefor is ‘enjoy building the plane while flying it’.

Now it is up to you: share you brilliant failures and successes; post them in the expo area. Talk about it with other SANKALP participants. On April 10th 10.30 at level 1 we will hand out the ‘Failure Award’ based on your shared input shared in the expo area! Of course based on the opinion of the crowd!

April 10 the SANKALP audience will decide
who deserves the award of failing forward!

If you are interested in reading more of my blogs, email: or join the Kickstart Innovation program in Bangalore, 25 or 26 April. Experiencing is beliving, enrol here:


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