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Failure is a process not a condition

Published by Vincent Pickering

I haven't met a designer alive that wouldn't revise their design thinking or approach if given an opportunity to repeat a project from scratch.

To solve problems through design, shed the notion that failure is negative and understand that there is no perfect solution.

Design is a constant process to revise, rethink, hone or create the most viable solution we can comprehend; given the knowledge, tools and resources available at that moment in time.

Failure is a process not a condition, when we fail in achieving a task we rule out one more answer in a vast array of possibility, narrowing our view to a workable solution. In this light, failure gives valuable insight or knowledge in to how a task is constructed.

Insight and data collected can point the way or help us to understand how variables act upon a problem to revise our viewpoint.

Learn to catalogue and observe the conditions that produced a misjudged approach. With this mindset your design process will always move forward, never stagnate and remain focused on the users needs.

To excel in your work, learn to embrace the cyclical pattern of ‘try and fail’ relieving ourselves of presumptions such as:

  • A perfect solution has been executed.
  • The job is finished.
  • The answer is correct first time.
  • The solution is correct based on a previous projects knowledge.

Two projects, with the same objectives and even in the same field, could have entirely different circumstances acting upon them that require a different approach or thought process. Use knowledge you have accumulated over time to inform a place in space that anchors your work, gives direction, and moves forward. Be mindful throughout to re-evaluate and test as you go.

Set time aside with your team to reflect on past efforts. While it is important to identify problem areas or processes, that may have lead to misadventures in a previous effort, don’t forget to think bigger, to illustrate:

  • Was the projects trajectory correct?
  • Did it utilise the right technologies?
  • Was research lacking in any area before development began?
  • Are there repeating patterns or issues emerging when compared with other projects?
  • Could the team skill-set have been better tailored to the tasks required?
  • Were there any personality conflicts during the project that need to be remedied?

Reflection is an important part in getting better as a team and individual. Without constant re-assessment of work against yourself and others you are unable to measure progress, improvements, skill and quality of work delivered and ongoing.