Book News: May 11th, 2011

Edited by David Hillson.

Many of us are afraid of failure and spend our lives trying to avoid it. But society’s most high achieving figures would all recognise that failure has been an integral part of their success.

In 2009, the Royal Society of the Arts’s Glory of Failure project determined to bring failure into the public sphere, and to acknowledge that doing something wrong is an essential part of achievement.

The Failure Files came out of this project. In the book, experts in a range of business and social fields discuss different aspects of the concept of failure and how it relates to a variety of settings in today’s society – including business, education, social history, psychology and the public services.

In this vein, the simple story of Edison trying, trying and trying again to make a light bulb illustrates that certain people – entrepreneurs, inventors and explorers among them – make failure into a vital part of the learning process.

‘Throughout the essays, the writers frequently return to two categories into which their many different aspects of failure broadly fall: on the one hand, there is a fear of failure that leads to inaction (on a personal level), inflexibility (on an organisational level) or stagnation (on a societal level) and, on the other, there are all those setbacks, losses and rejections that are in fact inevitable risks of any endeavour.

The difference between these two categories is a matter of mindset – but a mindset that is contingent upon circumstances and pre-existing structures. The chapters in The Failure Files all explore this complicated web of circumstance and perception that surrounds failure, each taking different perspectives as starting points

The Failure Files is a call to open up discussions about how to build appropriate responses to failure into our society, our workplaces and our personal lives.

Published by Triarchy Press. ISBN 978-1-908009-30-2. £18.50