way, so she and partner Diane Loviglio launched FailCon. That first event attracted 400 attendees; this year’s drew 550. And it’s not just the Bay Area that’s interested in failure. Licensed variations of FailCon have been held in cities across the globe
— in France, Singapore, Berlin, Brazil, and Sydney — each sponsored by a local organization or com- pany. The Greater Baltimore Technology Council hosted its own Bmore Fail for tech entrepreneurs last April. Phillipps said it’s not surprising that failure- focused events are springing up in the tech world
— where failure is often viewed as a career-building step rather than a career-ending catastrophe.
“We’ve all failed,” she said, “and it’s a perfectly acceptable story to share because it comes with the territory of trying something new or creating something that’s never been built. Failure is an inevitable part of the process.”
FAILURE IS CATCHING ON At the same time, failure is “highly mobile,” according to Phillipps; entrepreneurs are just early adopters of a widely applicable educa- tional format. She recently addressed a group of
architects on the value of failure, and there are signs that other industries are embracing the concept of learning from mistakes, too. In 2009, Honda released “Failure: The Secret to Success,” an eight-minute documentary that provided an inside look at the mishaps of Honda racers, designers, and engineers, and how they drew upon failure to motivate them to succeed. The response was so positive that Honda followed up in 2010 by inviting five “thought leaders” from different back- grounds to record short videos talking about their own experiences with failure. Meanwhile, a session at the 2011 TEDx Toronto
conference titled “Doctors make mistakes: Can we talk about that?” has been viewed more than 630,000 times on YouTube. In the session, Toronto emergency-room physician and CBC radio host Brian Goldman, M.D., tells of some of the mistakes he’s made over the course of his career. He discusses how failure presents oppor- tunities for improvement, and he calls on other doctors to start talking about mistakes. David Ring, M.D., a respected hand and arm
surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, has done just that. Ring chose to open up about a mistake he made — a few years ago, he performed
What We Have Here ... is not a failure to communicate. Networking sessions are key to FailCon’s success.