The power of error. How to cope with failures

Meet Tanya and Ilya. Tanya is an internet marketer, Ilya is a designer; both are great specialists in their fields, both with experience and a head on their shoulders. Tanya and Ilya have a common problem: they often doubt themselves and workers are in trouble.

This is today's article.

Case number 1. Tanya and hypotheses

Tanya is a marketer with ambitions. For several years she has been working in a serious company. Tanya ate a dog on banners, increasing conversion and lead generation, and now not only introduces other people's ideas, but generates her own. Her job is to put forward hypotheses, pass them on to contractors and track results.

Tanya is proud to have achieved the right to make decisions: due to her energy and determination, she is in good standing with her superiors and colleagues. In Tanya's career, everything is going well, but I want to reach a new level: try something new and show everyone how to do it.

Recently, the company in which Tanya works has launched a new product. Tanya understood: here he is, a chance to introduce the epic. It's time to redesign the main page, shift accents, rework all navigation. After discussing this idea with a couple of colleagues, Tanya rushed to implement her plans. She found adequate contractors, made a cool design with them and rolled out a grand update. And before that, of course, she told everyone how to save the world.

But suddenly the new design did not take off.

It turned out that the previous problems are not solved, but are aggravated. New users misunderstand the company, and old people resent the sudden changes and write angry letters of support.

How Tanya sees the problem

Tanya is not the first year in the profession. She knows that users are conservative, and redesign often encounters resistance, even if it solves problems. It often takes time to evaluate the usefulness of changes. But, alas, not in this case.

Conversion rates have objectively sunk, they already write about the failure in industry blogs, and inside the company it is clear to everyone that a couple of months waiting for the weather will not do. The site should be rolled back while financial losses are small.

Tanya is depressed. She swore to everyone that the hypothesis would work. It seems that something went wrong at the very beginning, but it is difficult to understand exactly what. Before Tanya did not face the problems that would have been so clearly generated by her initiative. Usually it is one of those people who solve problems, and do not create.

Tanya doubts herself, and in addition she feels herself not just mistaken, but publicly humiliated. Her mistake was seen by colleagues, bosses, users. Now everyone will think that she does not understand her business.

The main problem in the current situation is that, personally, she, Tanya, turned out to be wrong, and everyone saw it.

As a matter of fact

If you pay attention to Tanya’s thoughts, you can see that she doesn’t think about the problem, but about how this situation characterizes her.

What will people think? How will this affect Tanya's reputation? What if everyone decides that Tanya does not understand marketing? These are terrible questions. When they come up in Tanya’s head, it’s impossible to think about anything else.

Vital forces of Tanya leave for living feelings of guilt and self-defense from the inner voice whispering all sorts of nastiness. In Tanya’s imagination, the problem is exaggerated with every turn of internal conflict. New solutions are not invented (they even start something scary after such a failure). The head is occupied with assumptions and self-accusations, and not search for a way out.

Meanwhile, nothing fatal happened.

To push the result, to see that something did not work, to correct the course and go further is a normal working process.

This is how the development of any digital product is arranged. Yes, she is risky. Yes, you can come up with mechanisms that will increase the likelihood of success. But the failed hypothesis itself is quite normal.

Success and error are two reactions to testing a hypothesis. If the hypothesis was not confirmed, it says nothing about Tanya, nor about her mental abilities, nor about the quality of her work. It’s just a “Go back to the beginning of the loop and try something else.”

If Tanya can be reproached for anything, then only in haste. It is possible that during the development process it was worthwhile to spread a straw: to prepare an audience, to think in advance about how the company would act in the event of a reaction, to discuss a backup rollback. However, this experience will not be taken from the bay-floundering: in order to do the next time according to the mind, you must first fill the bump.

Previously, Tanya did not know this, but now she knows. Failure with the redesign made it more experienced, taught the new and, ultimately, turned into a more valuable specialist. The company received new data, and, in fact, the failure is positive: it has opened up new perspectives that just need to be used.

Unfortunately, Tanya does not see this and does nothing, because she is passionate about self-flagellation.

What to do

Urgent measures

To start - let go of guilt and shame. The real problem does not arise when the hypothesis turns out to be wrong, but when the specialist, devastated by a sense of guilt and ashamed of himself, does nothing.

The second step is correct the error. Roll back the site to its previous state, apologize to users, examine all the facts and indicators and collect feedback from the participants. This is important to do in order to understand exactly what went wrong (and at what stage). Without analysis, a failed hypothesis is useless.

The third step is put forward a new hypothesistaking into account the bad experience. In the testing process, pay attention to the assessment of success and failure: agree in advance on what the error criteria are, and outline an action plan.


All of the above measures are urgent. They are intended to plug the hole, but do not change the processes as a whole. To continue not to stumble on the same rake, we need system changes.

Inadequate guilt helps fight watching myself. Guilt and shame are painful states of consciousness that appear when a person’s behavior comes into conflict with social values ​​and accepted rules. They do not appear by chance or irrevocably. Their appearance can be traced and corrected.

Wines and shame are good for socialization. With their help, the community regulates the behavior of individuals. The enraged mother, noticing that her son was not behaving well, said in their hearts: “Shame on you!”. The teacher, dealing with school fights, exclaims: "You did a terrible thing, apologize for your behavior!". With the help of such tools, an adult schedules for a child the limits of permissible.

The feeling of shame is associated with a negative assessment of personality; guilt - with responsibility for a particular act. For some people, the boundaries between shame and guilt are blurred, and feelings are not working as intended. They do not help socialization, but become a heavy burden that paralyzes a person when it is necessary to act.

It is necessary to trace the entry into the cycle of self-blame - the very moment when the thoughts "I am a bad specialist" and "what will be thought of me" appear. When this happens, transfer yourself to experimenter mode and shift the focus of attention to the problem, not to opinions.

It will be difficult at first, but watching yourself is a trained skill. There is nothing shameful about the problem that provoked guilt and shame: everyone has mistakes, all experiments, but not everyone dares to admit and not everyone learns useful experience.

A good move is to embed an error into the workflow: prescribe that an experiment is underway, 95% of the results will be unsuccessful, and that is how it should be.

The point of the experiment is not to succeed immediately (this is not the case), but by trial, error and analysis, identify the 5% for which work is being done. To make the search process less costly, limit the budget for each test.

Case number 2. Ilya and fatigue

Ilya is a designer. He is responsible, smart, talented; he knows that design is not just drawing pictures, but a solution to business problems. Ilya has experience, some awards, stable work. He even knows how to manage time, and therefore almost does not break deadlines.

In the past six months, Ilya worked to wear. He made several confident projects, jumped over his head, naturally saved a client a couple of times. There were difficult and interesting tasks, there were medium ones, and there were frankly bad ones, but not due to Ilya. Even in difficult conditions, Ilya did everything in his power, and at least a little, but improved the design.

And so Ilya was charged with another task. The inputs were not brilliant: a doubting client, a small budget, vague goals, high expectations from the project. But Ilya internally decided that he did not care. He already coped in such circumstances more than once, often worked in a hurry, he got used to abrasions and difficulties.

On this project, Ilya set himself a task: he must overcome himself - not just "do it as usual", but "make a breakthrough."

With this installation, he took up the work, painstakingly and honestly worked, and after a while he found out that the result was so-so.

How does Ilya see the problem

According to Ilya, the design frankly fails: it’s all kind of crumpled elements that are heterogeneous, there’s not enough time for spectacular animation, the design system isn’t born, and the client also makes edits from the first layout that are reduced to secondary solutions everybody. "

The client has a simple logic: why invent something, if you can simply take from competitors and repaint? But Ilya does not agree.

Ilya looks at the layout of the main page and understands: he did not try hard enough. If the client had seen what results could be achieved with his mind, the question of other people's decisions would not even stand. So, you need to try harder, work more and longer, apply all possible efforts. Ilya begins to linger at work, hurry, go through dozens of options, but it's not that.

The manager pushes Illya: buddy, it's already time for us to type out timing. How much have you got ready? Soon you will make changes? When will we look at the layout? Come on, hurry up, our next project will be on fire soon.

Ilya is terrified. He is ashamed to show the manager and client what happened. Therefore, he pulls time, beats over each edit and very keenly perceives every critical remark.

Somehow, the high demand of Ilya turned into complete hopelessness. Potentially breakthrough, interesting project became flour, and Illya himself slowly mutates into a neurasthenic. He is disappointed in himself and in his work, he is very tired, but he cannot give anything worthwhile.

At first, Ilya believes that the problem is in the client and the manager, but a worm of doubt sharpens him inside. Finally, Ilya gives up: it's in me.

“I’m a bad designer, I’m trying a little and I’m not capable of breakthroughs. Another time, you have to either try harder (but where it’s more, you have so little strength), or look for another job. Or maybe this profession is not for me at all?”

As a matter of fact

The problem lies not in this particular case, but in the pattern: Ilya used to systematically work without half measures and take on more than he needed. Taking up the project, he does not know exactly what the expectations of his work are and he doesn’t know what the situation demands from him. Just trying to give maximum effort.

Sometimes these efforts are chaotic and look like wandering in the dark. Ilya has no formulated definition of what good design is. Is this concept universal? What are the evaluation criteria? What is considered to be a success on this project, and what a failure?

For a while, Ilya manages to guess the direction and achieve a result solely on the spiritual ascent, but the approach is not universal, and internal resources are finite. Ilya has accumulated fatigue, which he did not notice, because all attention was focused exclusively on work.

And then came the moment when Illya exhausted. The result was so-so, because Illya was tired - he ran out of internal resources, ideas were exhausted, and only exorbitant expectations remained. It didn’t happen all of a sudden, but Illya doesn’t know how to keep track of his condition, so he didn’t understand what had happened until the last moment, and only pounded himself more.

Unfortunately, the "maximum effort" does not equal the "best result." Sometimes you need not to "work more" and "work differently." And sometimes - "work the same way as before."

Change for the sake of change is not needed; no abstract “breakthrough project” is needed if this breakthrough is not related to solving a specific problem. Civilization is driven not so much by breakthroughs as by daily repetition of useful actions.

What to do

The first thing that occurred to Ilya is to increase the pressure of circumstances. Work harder, wait for the deadline and adrenaline rush, raise expectations, lift the bar and try to jump to it with the last effort.

For a while, this recipe works. But in the long run, the side effects overpower the benefits.

Perfectionism and procrastination are themselves stressful; if you supplement them with violence against yourself, the picture will become quite bleak. To get out of the vicious cycle, it makes sense to think about how to reduce stress, and not about how to strengthen it. This helps rest, prevention of burnout and measures aimed at combating perfectionism.

Urgent measures

First step - clarify expectations. It is necessary to discuss the work with the manager and the client and form a clear picture of the requirements. What exactly should be the result? What problems should design solve? Should it really be breakthrough? And, if so, why and in what way should it be expressed? Answers to such questions will return Illya to reality.

Further, it would be good to objectively evaluate the current result. Is he really as bad as it seems to Ilya, or is it just an internal feeling of dissatisfaction with himself - they say, I could have done something, but could not surprise myself.

If everything is objectively bad - Correct mistakes. The list of errors should be specific, otherwise the problem will return to the direction of a vague dissatisfaction. In the case of internal doubts and the fatal feeling “everything is bad”, you can hire an outside judge - for example, you can offer an experienced colleague to act as an advisor and appraiser.

Useful to return to productive fragment a big task the tasks are smaller - they are faster executed, easier to evaluate, and therefore not so terrible.

Works well small wins method: even in the most unsuccessful project, you can find at least one small area in which you can win and do something worthy. When a small victory is achieved, the forces are launched, moving towards a new small victory.

And, of course, Ilya will need rest. They can not be neglected, even if after fakaps I really want to punish myself. Rest is at least a couple of evenings of rest and normal sleep without work, as a maximum - a complete vacation with a change of atmosphere.

Yes, it sounds trite, but not all people go on vacation twice a year. The author of this article was once on the spot Ilya and did not rest for three years.


Perfection is not needed. Even perfectionists who are obsessed with finding the ideal, do not want to live in a world that will be flawless and deal with exceptionally flawless people.

Value is not infallibility, but the coincidence between the goal and the result. In other words, Ilya's clients, managers, and colleagues need not stylistically and conceptually the perfect execution of a task, but the execution that will hit the target.

Years of hard work may be needed to accept and realize this diamond truth, but the process can be accelerated if it is usual to clarify expectations each time before starting a project.

The first stage of the work should be case study, careful consideration of point A and point B. Where is the project going, where is the goal? Why does the project go there? What does the performer want to get at the output? What does the client want? What are the users?

Second moment - definition of boundaries. Ilya needs to understand where his area of ​​responsibility ends and someone else begins. What can Ilya do to reach point B? And what exactly he can not, because it is not in his competence?

And the third moment - balance of power. Ilya is the most productive not when he tries to bring the model to an unattainable ideal out of his last forces in panic, but when he is healthy, full of strength, happy and inspired.

Paradoxically, the best thing a workaholic can do for a project is to become a slightly smaller workaholic. It is beneficial for everyone that Ilya is happy while working on the project, which means that achieving happiness and a good rest in the long term is no less important for his work than the work itself.

Summary: how to extract useful experience from errors

  1. Overcome guilt feelings. Find a way to step over self-blame and soberly consider the problem. Error is a normal part of the workflow, and guilt is an obstacle that prevents you from working calmly on.
  2. Be prepared to correct hypotheses. If the error really affected the product, you should correct it and apologize to those affected by it, and then put forward a new hypothesis. To do this, it is important to collect feedback and analyze. Without feedback, the error is useless.
  3. Build a loop error. Give yourself and others the setting for experiments in advance. Смысл экспериментов - не добиться мгновенного успеха сразу, а выявить истину методом проб и ошибок.
  4. Уточнять ожидания. In order not to think out too much, you need to agree in advance with the stakeholders, what is the purpose of the project, what is success and what is failure.
  5. Monitor your condition. Watch yourself as a phenomenon and learn to track the states of greatest vulnerability.
  6. Relax. Rested person is less mowing.

Watch the video: Learn How To Overcome Your Failures Through God's Mercy with Rick Warren (April 2020).


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