Fessing Up Stories about professional risks that have worked or bombed — both have their place at FailCon.
‘You failed. Now what are you going to do?’”
ECONOMIC DRIVER The fact that interest in failure started picking up around the same time the U.S. economy tanked might strike some as more than coincidental. Just as some might wonder if transparency about failure is a passing fad that will disappear from meeting agen- das once the economy is firmly back on track. Doubtful, said every one of the experts inter-
viewed by Convene. “It’s seductive to say there’s trendiness to this,” Goldman said, “but you can go back hundreds of years to find philosophers who talk about the value of failure.” Jason Zasky, founding editor of Failure Maga-
zine, likes to point out that his online publication, which provides in-depth coverage of current and historical failures, was launched in 2000 at the height of the dot-com boom. Even during those heady times, failure struck a nerve, Zasky said. A few days after Failure went live, high traffic crashed the under-prepared servers. “I don’t think there is any other subject that is
nearly as compelling,” Zasky said, adding that any discussion of failure is likely to fill seats. “Some people are interested because they want to learn
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from it and avoid the mistakes of others. Others are just curious as to how and why failure is a cata- lyst for success. Others just enjoy dwelling on the misery of others.” Arsenault, meanwhile, cited a popular quote
from former IBM chief Thomas Watson, in which the business pioneer was asked the formula for success. “It’s quite simple really,” Watson report- edly said. “Double your rate of failure.” “I think successful people have been doing this
for a long time,” Arsenault said. “Maybe the notion that it’s okay to publicly share and celebrate fail- ure is a somewhat new idea; but innovators have been thinking this way for a long time.”
Contributing Editor Molly Brennan is a freelance writer and editor based in Highland Park, Ill.