What do Post-It Notes and Penicillin have in common?

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They were both the results of research “gone wrong”, and may easily have ended up in the bin, had the researcher not paused to reflect on the value of their apparent mistake.

Failure is often a considered a negative but looking at it differently can open unexpected routes to success. Albert Einstein said, “failure really is just success in progress.” However, the pressures of the research environment can make it difficult to take this view.

Paradigms of educational histories teach us that failure can have disastrous consequences for future success (Jackson 2003). Elliot and Thrash argue that for many young people, fear of failure becomes “a dispositional burden that they must carry with them into each new achievement situation and that affects the goals they choose to pursue” (2004, 968).

By the time high-achieving students reach PGR level, fear of failure is often strongly developed and can lead to intense anxiety, as well as a risk-averse approach.

What can we do about this?

Salford University’s Doctoral School has developed a “Failure Fridays” initiative, in which experiences of failure are re-framed as opportunities for personal development and pathways to success. Drawing on creative and entrepreneurial practices, “Failure Fridays” present the experience of failure as something to be embraced and explored rather than avoided, drawing on research from creative and entrepreneurial contexts (Naray-Davey & Hurley, 2014; Babineaux and Krumboltz 2013, Hall 2007).

The intervention aims to create an open environment where researchers feel comfortable discussing mental health issues, and to get involved in conversations connecting with others. Flipping one’s inner monologue from “I failed to work hard enough” to “I failed to ruin my weekend” can have transformative effects on self-esteem, confidence and healthy working practices.

Keep reading this article here: Fail Again, Fail Better (ukcge.ac.uk)

Explore the most Recent Failure Friday here: https://tinyurl.com/FF2Jul21

When should the next Failure Friday be? Tell us your thoughts here: https://tinyurl.com/FFyourvote