Leadership Lessons of Web 2.0 – Secret #4: Permission To Fail

This is the fourth in a series of posts looking as how aspiring leaders can learn from Web 2.0 practices and theory.

On The Web: On the web, users are accountable for their own behaviours in a community and in most cases, the community will create its own champions and police those who don’t meet community standards. The community will learn from its mistakes and get stronger, faster, better over time.

Take Wikipedia as an example – as most people know, not every entry is 100% factually correct, but the community’s passionate, engaged users they have learned how to correct most of the mistakes themselves.  If Jimmy Wales hadn’t given them this trust, Wikipedia would have faltered early and often and would’ve ended up no better than the Encyclopedia Brittanica or World Book.

Another example of how communities deal with ‘failure’… If Ralph writes a horribly inappropriate comment on Jane’s blog,  Jane’s community (the audience) has several methods of policing itself.  It can chastise the behaviour within the community (in the comments) or it can flag inappropriate behaviour directly to Jane.  The key is that Jane doesn’t necessarily have to be the first one to act every time someone is offensive – in fact, it’s more valuable for Jane to let the community sort out its own problems, because THAT’s what strengthens and defines the community.

As A Leader: In order to build trust and full engagement with your team, you need to be okay with failure, too.  If a team tries something that’s different than the way YOU would have done it and it doesn’t work, you can’t panic and madly reach for the reins again so you can re-assert control.  Just as you trusted the team with the initial idea and execution, you need to trust that the team will learn from its mistakes and get stronger and better from each failure.

And you need to build in mechanisms for the team to deal with problems on its own.  Yes, you still need someone that let’s people ‘flag as inappropriate’ situations that you must solve yourself.  However, as a leader, you can’t solve everyone’s problems all the time.  The team needs to learn to solve its own problems – just like on the web, that’s how the team gets stronger, faster, and better.

It’s not about you.  It’s about your team.

Have you ever succeeded because you’ve been given ‘permission to fail’?

Related Posts:

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #1: Give Up Control

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #2: Engagement

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #3: Be A Valuable Community Member

6 Replies to “Leadership Lessons of Web 2.0 – Secret #4: Permission To Fail”

  1. That is the amazingly powerful aspect of our current work group, and in large part the reason for such a dramatic turn around in engagement, performance and direction.

    Prior to that we lived under an autocratic umbrella that left little room for growing ideas as they gained legs. And quite frankly this nipped energy in any projects almost certainly before they began.

    The one thing I have noticed is, there is even policing within the team. So that some failures are avoided before they ever happen because of the power of the group.

  2. That is the amazingly powerful aspect of our current work group, and in large part the reason for such a dramatic turn around in engagement, performance and direction.

    Prior to that we lived under an autocratic umbrella that left little room for growing ideas as they gained legs. And quite frankly this nipped energy in any projects almost certainly before they began.

    The one thing I have noticed is, there is even policing within the team. So that some failures are avoided before they ever happen because of the power of the group.

  3. John, based on your last few comments, it sounds like you’re working in Utopia! I’m glad to hear that environments and leaders like this exist out there and are finding success practicing it.

  4. John, based on your last few comments, it sounds like you’re working in Utopia! I’m glad to hear that environments and leaders like this exist out there and are finding success practicing it.

  5. Well… I do get a lot of comments about how people envy my workplace in the fun that we have, so I guess its as close to Utopia as you can get. But there’s always room for improvement. But I feel an owner in that process.

    And I’d say judging by the results and involvement you get from your team, you’re leading quite the same kind of group.

  6. Well… I do get a lot of comments about how people envy my workplace in the fun that we have, so I guess its as close to Utopia as you can get. But there’s always room for improvement. But I feel an owner in that process.

    And I’d say judging by the results and involvement you get from your team, you’re leading quite the same kind of group.

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