Failing Generously

“The way you explore complex ecosystems is you just try lots and lots and lots of things, and you hope that everybody who fails fails informatively so that you can at least find a skull on a pikestaff near where you’re going.”
– Clay Shirky, http://www.shirky.com/herecomeseverybody/2008/04/looking-for-the-mouse.html

I know that @cshirky wasn’t talking about agile development in that post.  My belief, however, is that software development does qualify as a complex ecosystem and that there is tremendous value in “failing generously” when you do fail.

“Failing generously” has two aspects – the informative aspect highlighted by @cshirky being the public aspect, the one that you might hear in discussions at conferences or read in publications.

“Failing generously” is also a willingness, an openness, an agape of sorts, to avoid blaming the tool, the process, co-workers, the customer, or yourself.  Truth be known, the real reason for the failure is probably a myriad of those things, slap-dashed together with just the right timings put in place for … the failure. The etymology of the failure might be as complex as the ecosystem itself.

Fail generously. Study the context, plant pikestaffs for yourself and for others. Learn from it and understand what you could do better next time. If you simply must blame, then at least be willing to forgive, yourself included.

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