S3E3: Hello Failure! The Secret of My SUCcess with Malinda Lowder

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This is a podcast episode titled, S3E3: Hello Failure! The Secret of My SUCcess with Malinda Lowder. The summary for this episode is: <p>In S3E3, we welcome Moser Director of Marketing Malinda Lowder and talk about the importance of failure. Your organization can become stronger and more successful simply by making it okay to make mistakes. This supportive atmosphere encourages innovation, which can lead your business to new ideas and new heights.</p>

Speaker 1: Go.

Angel Leon: Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of ASCII ANYTHING, presented by Moser Consulting. I'm your host, I'm Angel Leon, Moser's director of personnel.

Brian: With us today we have a very special guest.

Angel Leon: Yes, we have a co- host today. So if you hear him throughout the episode, as you might, so just ignore him, but he is very cute, I promise. He's four months old and he likes to make sounds. So please bear with us with that. We're glad you're with us for episode three of ASCII ANYTHING, and with us today is Moser's director of marketing, Malinda Lowder, who joins us today to talk about an interesting concept. Could you keep sucking until you succeed? What does that mean you ask? That and much more will be answered by Malinda today on ASCII ANYTHING. Malinda, it's great to have you back on ASCII ANYTHING, as you have in the past you're bringing us a subject that is very intriguing. I guess my first question to you would be why this subject?

Malinda: Hi Angel, it's great to be here. Yeah, I think it's an interesting subject too. I am just intrigued by what I've seen and the average person's need to just be right. And by extension to not make mistakes. I started thinking about this a few months ago. I actually watched a video of a guy asking people questions on the street to win prizes. It was like his own little game show. And I really wish I could find this video again. I have searched and searched for it, but it really made an impression on me. So I remember it very clearly. So the first question he asked people was, how many countries are in Africa? And the rules, before he let them answer, were you have to answer the question without going over. So you have to be under, right? So as long as you guess under the actual number of countries, you would win the prize. So, Angel, what's your guess? Knowing the rules, how many countries are in Africa?

Angel Leon: I would say 32.

Malinda: Okay. So technically you're right. The number of countries in Africa is 54, but knowing the rules though, and you did exactly what everybody does, try to get as close as you can. Right?

Brian: One.

Malinda: One. See, so Brian's got the idea. If we didn't have just a drive to be correct in order to win the prize all you have to say is one. You know that there's more than one country in Africa, right? But you don't know how many countries are in Africa. But the rules are, you just have to be under it. So if you say one, you win the prize. But we don't want to say one, we want to be right. We don't want to make a mistake. We want to be as close as we can. And every person this guy interviewed was guessing 30s, 50s, 100s. Why don't we all just say one and be right. And I think that feeds into this about wanting to be right, about not making mistakes. And I think the drive to do that gets more as we get older and as we feel like we should have the experience to not make mistakes anymore. So, kind of, really a few months ago that's where I started getting obsessed with this idea.

Angel Leon: Interesting. First of all, I mean, the guess really was a guess. I didn't think that would be either the right answer, so that's good, but that's an interesting take on that. So I guess, kind of a segue to this, why are mistakes important, because that game presents itself to be a really interesting game, really, because you're still getting the prize as long as you don't go over, but I would've never guessed there were 54 countries in Africa.

Malinda: Yeah. But then you ask yourself, why did you guess 34? I mean, knowing the rules, I think it's because we all do want to be right. And we want to be as close as we can to it, even if it doesn't matter. Even if it doesn't matter. This is something we have to address in our nature as people. And that affects our work. It affects, as students, what we do in school. And then when you're wrong, I mean, when I told you 54, I mean, you probably were like, okay, I was pretty close. 34 is pretty close. At least I didn't-

Angel Leon: I felt good. I felt good.

Malinda: Yeah.

Angel Leon: I felt hood.

Malinda: At least it wasn't way off. But I think that we've got to start thinking about, it's okay that you don't know every fact. It's okay that you don't know how many were there. And sometimes it's okay that I say one and that, that meets the requirements.

Angel Leon: Yeah. Interesting, because you're right. We always want to be right. Even when we know we're close to the answer, we still want to say," I was so close. I felt like I had it.

Malinda: And I was closer than you. I was closer than the person next to me.

Angel Leon: Right.

Malinda: I was closer than that guy.

Brian: Yeah. And even right now, I'm wondering how long I'm going to remember there are 54 countries in Africa.

Angel Leon: Yeah.

Malinda: Yeah. It's about our need to be right, and by extension, not make mistakes.

Angel Leon: Yeah. So then why are mistakes important? Why are they important?

Malinda: Like in education, when you think about education, especially even not just education, but in science. The importance of mistakes, I feel like, has always been noted. There was a study by Janet Metcalfe called Error- full Learning. And this was in 2017. She found out that students who were allowed to make mistakes, and she called it error- full learning. If those were followed up with corrective feedback, the students excelled and did very well learning their own lessons from the mistakes, and being guided in the right way. It really frees us up. Being free to make errors, frees us up for innovation, because you're not going to innovate unless you're trying new things and figuring things out. And some of those things are going to be mistakes. They're going to be wrong. You can't be afraid of doing that. And let's not forget, either, that some of the most important things that have happened in our society, the most important inventions are the product of mistakes. The invention of penicillin was a mistake. He went on vacation and when he came back, his lab little trays were corrupted. What would we have done if he had just thrown them away and not learned from that mistake, and looked at why they were corrupted and tried to figure out that? How long would it have taken us then to develop penicillin, which has saved so many lives, and is the product of a mistake?

Angel Leon: You brought up a lot of interesting points, because I mean, the guesswork that comes from the question that you asked. What happens if he would've thrown away those bottles? What would've happened if he would've done that? And so basically you don't make that discovery.

Malinda: Yeah. I mean, he could have said, oh, I don't want anybody to know that I messed up all this entire experiment. I'm just going to restart it. Nobody will know. But instead he was like, why? Why is this happening? And obviously we all know the results of it, so.

Angel Leon: Yeah. So that brings up a point about how we often hear the phrase, you learn from your mistakes. And I think that phrase has probably been used by every parent in history. We say it to our children every day. We're oftentimes thinking about, oh, I made this mistake when I was your age. But what does that mean for businesses? What does that mean for somebody who is in a business setting that makes a mistake?

Malinda: Yeah. When mistakes happen at work, I mean, a lot of times we feel like they hired us, we are presenting ourselves as experts, we shouldn't be making mistakes. So what happens is, when a mistake does happen, which is going to happen, people seize up. They feel anxiety about what this perceived failure says about them, about security with their job. It's really a stressful situation. But what we need to think about is, what if we assessed mistakes with a growth mindset. Rather than being afraid, we could examine the situation and take away the lessons. So learning from mistakes at work might look like discovering how to better plan for the unexpected. So, I made this mistake because I wasn't prepared for these situations that could happen. It could just involve a personal change, like I need to become more detailed oriented. I need to work on that. It could be about developing resiliency to something, or thinking of a new solution, thinking out of the box, going back to the drawing board. But basically, instead of focusing on the mistake, focusing on what can be learned, how you can turn that into a growing experience. Mistakes can make us better people in our jobs and in our life if we give it the room to let that happen.

Brian: It's reminding me of, I think, two different quotes that are at least attributed to Thomas Edison. I don't know if he actually said either of them, but one was like, I didn't fail to make a light bulb a thousand times, the light bulb was a thousand step process. The invention was a thousand step process to invent the light bulb, or I didn't fail... The other one was, I didn't fail 10,000 times, I found 10,000 ways to not do it.

Malinda: Yeah. I mean, it's really about that mindset about learning from it. Just saying you're not afraid. If he had been afraid to fail he would've never gotten there, because there were so many failures, so many mistakes, and you just have to use it as a learning curve.

Angel Leon: You just have to keep moving and just implement that failure in a different way so it doesn't happen again. So for those of you who don't know, we actually have a blog about this topic on our website, moserit. com. And there's an interesting thing that I'm going to ask Melinda now, because I think that is very key to what we're talking about. What is a culture of failure?

Malinda: Yeah. So it seems wrong, right? My company has a culture of failure.

Angel Leon: Yeah, no. When I was reading the blog I was like, wait a second. Is this actually a thing? But it is. It's a actually a thing.

Malinda: Yeah. But in the end, I feel like, this is just my opinion, you're not going to innovate unless you cultivate a culture of failure. Culture that tolerates mistakes and missteps as long as they're not negligent now. And we should make that distinction. There's a difference between trying something purposefully and not succeeding, and gross negligence, or something like that.

Brian: Maliciousness?

Malinda: Maliciousness even, yes. You obviously have to draw that distinction, but really a culture of failure is about developing a workplace culture that accepts mistakes, and accepts that they happen, and that they are learning opportunities. Or at the very least you don't create a culture that punishes employees for making an honest mistake or an honest try, because if you do that, people are going to stop coming to you with ideas. They're not going to have fresh, innovative ideas that they share because they'll be afraid.

Angel Leon: Yeah. And that's very key, because if you lose that trust, because you are not used to seeing other people, or yourself fail, but you're not willing to then take a hit and kind of just pick yourself back up and just continue moving on. That's hard. And especially in business, because if something fails, everybody around you could look at you like, oh, this guy doesn't know what he's doing, so.

Malinda: Yeah. Yeah. I lead our marketing team, and we're kind of a small scrappy group. We have a five person team that supports a 300 person company in all of their marketing needs. So we do a lot of things. We produce this podcast every week, we write a weekly blog, and we produce all of the materials that the sales and that the company needs. So we have projects coming at us 24, seven. We have short timelines, high expectations. So personally, I try to make sure my people know mistakes are okay. It's okay if we make a mistake. We're not going to come down on you, you're not going to be punished, especially for suggesting something that we try even if it doesn't work. We have to move so quickly that I don't want them to stress out about a mistake, because it's going to happen. It's literally going to happen. And we're going to put out a misspelling, we're going to have a blip in something that we can't rerecord, but it's okay. As long as it's an honest effort and we're trying new things, we're all right. And I think that that's the kind of culture you have to cultivate. And I think not all people in leadership positions think this way. It's a culture of graceful failure and recovery. That's really what it's about.

Angel Leon: Yeah. Recovery, a keyword right there. Not a lot of people think about failure and then recovering from that and then just moving on, moving forward.

Malinda: Yeah. And I think we should normalize working in a place that accepts these things. Organizations should have leaders who illustrate what making a mistake and successfully recovering from it looks like. They should be able to try new things. The leaders should own up to mistakes, not try to cover those up, and talk about what they learned from them. And then course correct. I've seen companies build a plan and follow that plan into the ground, even if it's not working because that's the plan. And I think you have to be willing to pivot, to look at the little parts of it that aren't working, and make fail fast type of changes, and correct. Not just cancel, but correct things and move things where they need to be.

Angel Leon: If we're okay with failure, there's got to be a way that we could avoid it too.

Malinda: I don't really think we can avoid it. And I don't really know if we want to.

Angel Leon: Mm-hmm(affirmative). Okay.

Malinda: I mean, yes, avoid negligence, avoid purposeful neglect of duties, but you can't avoid all mistakes. So I have this little clip of a newspaper that I'm going to show you guys. Our people online won't be able to see it, but I clipped this out of the newspaper years ago. It was actually, so this is going to date me, it actually the Sunday paper and The Parade Magazine that comes in the Sunday paper. It was an article about success years of years ago. And there're several things on here, on this little clip, that I clipped out. But the most meaningful to me, and the reason this has been hanging by my desk for 20 years is, it says every now and then, no matter how careful you try to be, you're bound to do something unbelievably stupid.

Angel Leon: Fair.

Malinda: Yeah, I love it. At the time I clipped it out and it freed me. I was like, I don't have to sit here and worry about making one mistake and it ending my life. I feel like that freed me to just not worry about it. It's going to happen to everybody. And the sooner you accept that, the more free you're going to be.

Angel Leon: Yeah. Perfection might not be completely achievable, but you can definitely get there with making the mistakes that come along the way, because those mistakes do provide some value, which takes me to my final question. And we've briefly touched on this, but what is the value of making mistakes?

Malinda: I think that mistakes make us better people if we let them. I mean, there's some people who are going to make mistakes, it's not going to make them a better person. They're not going to accept it. They're not going to try to learn from it and think about it. But I think if you let it, you can learn something about yourself, or about your processes. You can learn and grow. You can figure stuff out. So actually, and one more story. My husband is a system engineer and he used to work on a huge computer system. And whenever one of the other system engineers would accidentally take down a live production server they had a little traveling trophy they would give that person. It had a little bomb with a little fuse coming out the top when you take down a live production server. It was a little bit of a joke, but it was also to recognize it. And I was like, why would you do this other than a joke? And it's because, he said," Well, if they're not taking it down every now and then they're not doing anything. They're afraid to go in there and do stuff to the server." And you have to do stuff to service. You have to update, then you have to patch them, you have to watch them. You have to be sure they're not... They would hire some people who were so afraid of taking it down they wouldn't touch it. They would just let it run. And eventually it's going to go down on its own.

Brian: It will take itself down in that instance. Yeah.

Angel Leon: Mm-hmm(affirmative).

Malinda: Yeah. And so he at least wanted to hire people who weren't afraid. Who would go in there and watch it, and be in the system, and log into the system and see what's going on. And at least if you're in there, yeah, every now and then you're going to make a mistake, but it's an honorable mistake, and they just kind of wanted to celebrate it, so.

Angel Leon: Yeah, it's an honorable mistake. It's an honorable trophy. You've got to keep it. And I see the point. I see the point. It definitely signifies that a mistake was done, but that a learning occurred as well. Something happened that somebody learned their, I don't want to use the term, learn their lesson, but from an instance they learn a valuable lesson. So with that, we'd like to think Malinda Lowder for joining us this week to talk about why making mistakes will be valuable for your business. Malinda, thank you very much.

Malinda: Thank you very much.

Angel Leon: Thank you for listening into this week's edition of ASCITT ANYTHING presented by Moser Consulting. We'll be back next week with another episode, continuing to dive deeper with our resident experts in what they're currently working on. If you have an idea or a topic you'd like us to explore, please reach out to us through our social media channels. In the meantime, please remember to give us a rating and subscribe to our feed wherever you get your podcasts. Until then don't be afraid to make mistake... Ah, sorry. Until then don't be afraid to make mistakes because in the end, mistakes will end up making you better. So long everybody

Speaker 1: Go.

DESCRIPTION

In S3E3, we welcome Moser Director of Marketing Malinda Lowder and talk about the importance of failure. Your organization can become stronger and more successful simply by making it okay to make mistakes. This supportive atmosphere encourages innovation, which can lead your business to new ideas and new heights.