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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Failing is Growing

Kirjoittanut: Siri Saarilahti - tiimistä Sointu.

Esseen tyyppi: Akateeminen essee / 3 esseepistettä.

Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 6 minuuttia.


Siri Saarilahti and Happiness Apondi

1. Introduction.

Here we are, as small seedlings of a team of entrepreneurs (teampreneurs) in front of something big and new. All the possibilities are open, and we can do anything. Or can we? What being afraid of failure does to our ideas and creativity? Being afraid of making mistakes can affect many people’s behavior and courage to jump into something new. We wanted to dive into errors deeper and find useful tips for our team company on what we can get out of making mistakes, how we can learn from them, and grow as a successful team company.

2. Who defines success?

Where do we draw the line, whether we have succeeded or failed in everyday life? There are certain measurements, for example: did we do the dishes as we had decided or did? We got good grades on the math test because we finally studied enough? But who decides whether the task, person or event was successful or not?
Is success a monetary value? Or a happy life with friends and family surrounding us? Are success experiences? The meaning of success varies within culture, timeline, and people.

Some people might seem perfect outside. They have an amazing career, they are attractive, they have healthy children and a nice car. But under the surface they have a horrible bond between their significant other, moldy house and never time to do anything fun with the children because they work too much. Are they still successful? Some people have been in an exceptionally advantageous position in their career and then something happens, and they need to quit the job. First it might be the end of the world but then, forced by circumstances, they start learning how to play a guitar and find a new passion which they would never have found if they had continued in their busy career. So, there was a success in failure.

2.1 Success resembles failure and vice versa

Richard Farson and Ralph Keyes talk in their book ‘Whoever makes the most mistakes wins’ how winning and losing, victory and defeat, success and failure are not as clear as we think. Not black and white or easy to separate. In western culture absolute thinking is frequent: “if you lost, you did not win.” Eastern culture is more comfortable with the paradoxes, like yin needs its yang and sweet needs it is sour. This culture embraces mistakes more than Western culture.
Mistakes provide invaluable lessons, and each misstep is a perfect moment to stop for a second and think about what we can learn from this to avoid this mistake next time.

2.2 Tangling timeline

Says who? Success and failure are intertwined, each influencing the other in a reciprocal manner. The definition of success varies from person to person, emphasizing the subjective nature of the concept. This implies that the timing and age at which one considers themselves successful or unsuccessful are inconsequential. While striving for success, it is crucial to acknowledge and confront the challenges and setbacks that inevitably accompany them, rather than avoiding them. Success should be viewed more as a journey of resilience and adaptability rather than a simple binary outcome of victory or defeat, applicable both in personal and professional spheres.

  1. Mistakes in business

    Nowadays successful businesses need more than just monetary value. Companies get valued more when they take care of nature and do their best to be as sustainable as possible and do charity.
    A successful business also needs to have a good network, good relationships with the competitors and customers. A good reputation, satisfied customers, and employees. There are many new opportunities to fail too.

    We all want to avoid failure, even the word ´failure´ is emotionally loaded. Making a mistake can offer a moment to analyze and refine business strategies. After something did not go as planned, it is time to learn how to adapt to this new situation, rethink the plans and raise a culture of continuous improvement. Mistakes stimulate creativity and innovation, so it can even be helpful to make some mistakes when refining strategies. When sudden changes occur, teams need to explore alternative solutions, think creatively, and offer outcomes and ideas which were not even passing their minds before the mistake happened.


Consider the analogy of skydiving: the goal is not merely to reach the ground quickly or using specific techniques, but rather to land safely. Whether one achieves a smooth landing or encounters difficulties upon landing is secondary to the primary objective of touching down safely. Tom, as mentioned in the book, emphasizes the technical aspect of success, questioning the societal norms that dictate when and where success is determined. It is imperative to recognize that individuals follow diverse paths to success.

For instance, notable figures like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are renowned for their success despite being college dropouts. However, if they were to repeat their actions today, society might perceive them as failures. This highlights the arbitrary and evolving nature of societal judgments on success and failure, underscoring the importance of embracing individual journeys and challenging conventional norms.

  1. The innovation paradox

    The concept of the innovation paradox has been explored in various academic and business literature. One notable citation is from the book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christensen. In this influential work, Christensen discusses how successful companies can often fail to innovate because they are too focused on meeting the needs of existing customers and maintaining profitability in their current markets, thereby missing disruptive innovations that could fundamentally change their industries.

Christensen, Clayton M. “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail.” Harvard Business Review Press, 1997.

This book delves into the tension between sustaining innovations (those that improve existing products or services for existing customers) and disruptive innovations (those that create new markets or value networks, often at the expense of existing products or services). Christensen argues that successful companies can become victims of their own success by focusing too much on sustaining innovations and ignoring disruptive ones, leading to the innovation paradox.

The “innovation paradox” refers to the challenge that many organizations face when trying to innovate effectively. On the one hand, innovation is often seen as crucial for staying competitive and adapting to changing market conditions. On the other hand, the very structures, processes, and cultures that organizations develop to maintain stability and efficiency can often stifle innovation.

Several factors contribute to this paradox:


Risk aversion: Innovation inherently involves risk-taking, uncertainty, and the possibility of failure. However, many organizations, especially larger ones, tend to be risk-averse, preferring to stick with what has worked in the past rather than venturing into uncharted territory.


Short-term focus: Organizations frequently prioritize short-term goals and outcomes over long-term innovation. This can lead to a focus on incremental improvements to existing products or processes rather than investing in more radical innovations that may take longer to pay off.


Resistance to change: Human nature tends to resist change, and this resistance can manifest at both individual and organizational levels. People may be comfortable with the status quo and reluctant to embrace innovative ideas or ways of doing things.


Hierarchical structures: Traditional hierarchical organizational structures can create barriers to innovation by stifling communication and collaboration across various parts of the organization. Decision-making processes may be slow and bureaucratic, making it difficult to implement innovative ideas quickly.


Lack of resources: Innovation often requires dedicated resources, including time, money, and talent. However, many organizations may be unwilling or unable to allocate sufficient resources to support innovation efforts, especially when faced with competing priorities.

To overcome the innovation paradox, organizations need to recognize the importance of innovation and actively work to create a culture, structure, and processes that support it. This may involve fostering a culture of experimentation and learning, empowering employees to take risks and try new things, breaking down silos between various parts of the organization, and dedicating resources specifically to innovation initiatives. Additionally, leaders need to provide sharp vision and direction, encouraging a mindset that values innovation and embraces change.

5. Learning from mistakes

Different levels of errors can be achieved. It can be a mixed-up delivery or a wrongly calculated budget. There are various kinds of mistakes, and it is always good to define, which led the mistake to happen, and what was the intended goal.

When we are open to the options that everything can go perfectly, or wrong, we allow us to have the possibility to find a totally innovation. This can also provide the potential for learning through practice. When we look at making mistakes from this point of view it seems like making mistakes is even more desirable than something we should avoid.
In the team, making mistakes needs to be embraced, guided, and supported, learning from them does not usually happen spontaneously. Mistakes need to be reflected, monitored and handled well. To have a safe space in workplaces is required, so making mistakes is also safe and it can be fruitful.



To overcome the innovation paradox, organizations need to recognize the importance of innovation and actively work to create a culture, structure, and processes that support it. This may involve fostering a culture of experimentation and learning, empowering employees to take risks and try new things, breaking down silos between various parts of the organization, and dedicating resources specifically to innovation initiatives. Additionally, leaders need to provide clear vision and direction, encouraging a mindset that values innovation and embraces change.


Farsin, R., Keyes R. The Free Press 2002. WHOEVER MAKES THE MOST MISTAKES WINS

Cirera, X., & Maloney, W. F. (2017). THE INNOVATION PARADOX: Developing-country capabilities and the unrealized promise of technological catch-up. World Bank Publications.

Chialvo, D.R., Bak, P. 1999 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306452298004722

Wuttke, E. Seifried, J. LEARNING FROM ERRORS IN SCHOOL AND WORK https://books.google.fi/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ZcONDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA31&dq=mistakes+in+business&ots=X6RPjpeN32&sig=qujpxofd2lp-JArK0PLvtzeOJck&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=mistakes%20in%20business&f=false




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