The services we offer our clients range from talks and workshops, to facilitating learning processes and leading long-term change initiatives.
What we offer is constantly changing as we try new things and learn from what works and what does not, but for now we have landed on a Model for Organizational Change and 12 Modules to help people, teams and their organizations create a more productive relationship with failure so learning and innovation can thrive.
Model for Organizational Change
We conceptualize this shift in organizational culture on three levels. The first is start the conversation to bring people to a common understanding, expand perceptions of failure, and arrive at a common language for discussing failure more productively.
The next level is build the essential skills which focuses on the core competencies needed for intelligent failure.
Finally, the top level that builds towards culture change is develop tools and processes that are embedded in the existing structures of the organization in order to formalize the practice of intelligent failure and make it tangible.
Using our 12 Modules – which include talks, workshops, activities, case studies, examples, discussion, and on-going coaching support – Fail Forward helps teams and organizations walk away with the tangible skills, insights and drive to fail better.
Overview of the 12 Modules
Conversation starters and skill builders: Modules 0 – 8
These modules exist as 1 – 1.5 hour workshops for between 10 and 100 people.
Host one workshop every two to three weeks to give participants time to practice what they learn in between workshops or group modules together to take place as a crash course in intelligent failure.
Tools and processes: Modules 9 – 12
The tools and processes are designed to institutionalize intelligent failure into the DNA of your organization.
They include hosting a fail faire, writing a failure report, and adapting evaluation and other processes around failure to unlock the potential for learning and innovation.
The time required for these activities will depend on the scope and needs of your organization and are all carried out not as workshops but as projects with a select group of people related to the task. The tools and processes are built with this group so the expertise remains in-house long after the work with Fail Forward is complete.
The 12 Modules
0. Introduction and framing to the concept of Intelligent Failure
Either through assigning pre-reading or delivering a talk at your organization, this introduction gets your audience to think about failure differently.
1. The language of failure
This module builds appreciation for the fact that not all failures are created equally (e.g. incompetence versus experimental failures). We suggest using a well known case from within the organization to examine the various kinds of failures and develop language for talking about them differently. If you don’t have an internal failure case written up, we can supply a case from a different organization.
2. Uncovering polarities
Many of the barriers to Intelligent Failure can be characterized in terms of tensions (e.g. action vs. reflection, standardization vs. innovation, consistency vs. agility, stability vs. change, etc.). The polarities module helps identify the pros and cons of each side of the polarity and explore ways to maximize the upsides of both while recognizing and mitigating the downsides.
Polarities tool from Polarities Partnerships
3. Communicating failure for learning
This module helps shifts how we think about failure and provides a process for decoupling ego from activity. It is designed to build the skills for becoming a good listener and teller of failure stories.
4. Innovation potential assessment
This module uses an assessment tool to understand the aspects of the organization that allow innovation to thrive and where key improvement can be made. As add-ons to this module, the information from the assessment can be used to inform and design priorities for improvements as well as uncovering interesting differences in perceptions between leadership and staff.
5. Understanding the physiological responses to failure
This module builds awareness of our neurobiological responses to failure in order to strengthening our ability to react rationally and productively. The exercise is useful for understanding our own instinctive responses as well as recognizing, and forgiving, defensive behaviour in others.
Facilitation by Dr. Mandy Wintink, Director of the Centre for Applied Neuroscience
6. The gift of feedback
Build the important skill of receiving and giving great feedback.
7. Design thinking
Design thinking has become a well-known tool for failing fast. This module looks at using design thinking as a tool to de-risking failure by focusing on rapid prototypes and experimentation. The human centred design aspect of design thinking can be useful for thinking through what areas are most in need of innovation and change. This module can be a 1-hour introduction to design thinking or it can be run as a 1/2 day lab to explore an existing design challenge.
Design thnking workshop inspired by IDEO
8. Risk and innovation appetite assessment
This module has teams map their actual and ideal risk tolerance for their work. The exercise highlights where opinions differ and creates a productive conversation around the team’s potential for innovation. The assessment also provides boundaries for employees so they know how much and what kind of failure is acceptable in pursuit of innovation and what is just too much, thus balancing the need for innovation with accountability to providing value.
There are many institutionalized mechanisms that can hold us back from, or encourage, learning and innovation from failure. Evaluation metrics are one such mechanism that is present in almost every organization. This module seeks to understand the evaluation process in place and work with evaluators and HR representatives to provide recommendations for a process that supports learning and innovation through evaluation.
10. Organizational processes: Turning lessons learned into organizational change
This module is dedicated to improving the institutional capacity to learn from failures because the capacity to learn lessons is more valuable than any specific lesson learned.
If there is a recent instance of failure institutionalizing a blameless post mortem practice might be most useful. If a project is just kicking off the practice of visualizing failure or a before action review would be appropriate. Or if a project is underway investing in a process for learning through failures – so consequence can be avoided – not just from failures is an effective means of building adaptation into your plans.
Regardless of the context, this module seeks to maximize learning from failure and uncover how to take the lessons off the page of a report and turn them into organizational change.
Organizational process concepts inspired by Forth Quadrant Partners
11. Failure reports
Fail Forward started in 2011 supporting organizations like Engineers Without Borders to create annual failure reports. Since then we have developed many other tools and processes for a more productive relationship with failure but never lost that core ability to inspire and support authors across an organization to write great stories and publish their own report.
12. Failure events
Fail Forward also specializes in creating the content for internal failure events, coaching speakers to share stories, making connections with external speakers, and creating a safe environment to role model and catalyze a more productive relationship with failure.
Contact us for pricing, packages and to learn more.