- March 29, 2017
- Posted by: Robert Rose
- Category: Business Transformation
Last week, I was talking with a client who had just started a new job as a content strategist in the marketing department of a big B2B organization. Within the first two months of her job, she had helped the company launch a new blog, had figured out a new message architecture for content, and had started driving new, highly qualified leads into the organization. She was an overnight success.
What was the problem? She said to me, “What the hell did I do right?”
There’s a ton of attention paid to “failing fast” these days. A quick Google search for the phrase finds more than 151,000 results. Search for “succeed fast,” and you get about 10% of that number.
Succeed fast. It just sounds wrong doesn’t it? It feels like we’re cheating, right? Failing fast is to be expected; it’s what we do. Succeeding fast goes against everything we’ve been taught: “No pain, no gain.” “There’s no elevator to success.” “Success doesn’t happen overnight.” “Success hurts.”
But what about when success doesn’t hurt? What about when we succeed the first time we try? What are we supposed to do with that kind of success?
We often chalk success (and failure) up to character. When we see the entrepreneur who took 20 years to create a successful company, we typically credit her stamina and hard work. When we see the entrepreneur who failed at a company after 20 months, we may point to the person’s greed.
In other words, we make what psychologists call fundamental attribution errors. We attribute failure or success to a person’s personality or disposition, crediting (or blaming) that person while underestimating the influence of external factors that contributed to the failure or success.
When we fail, we want to go back and fix our mistake. We figure that we must have done something wrong, and we want to learn from the experience. But when we succeed, we may not bother analyzing what we did right; we may assume that we’ll never duplicate that lightning in a bottle. This Failure To Ask Why syndrome means that we don’t ask the tough questions in analyzing our wins.
So while we learn from failures, we often don’t learn from successes.
We love doing postmortems after things die. The next time you have that quick win – the one that feels like you got away with something – why not do a postnatal analysis? Imagine the impact of learning from the things that go right.
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