In partnership with Harvard Business Review, the Legatum Institute welcomed Anjali Sastry, Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, to discuss her new book Fail Better: Design Smart Mistakes and Succeed Sooner, co-authored with Kara Penn, cofounder and principal consultant at Mission Spark.
The book examines the ways in which companies, whether large firms or start-ups, can systematically learn from their failures and explore avenues to quickly bounce from past mistakes. Anjali Sastry spoke about the psychological barriers to changing our working habits, and explained how this prevents us from understanding the causes of failure. In her opinion, long-term follow-up—both on an individual and institutional basis—is key. We should take the time to reflect on our past failed projects, instead of quickly shelving them. Sastry stated that “we design our work to confirm our expectations”, yet we should shape our working habits in a way that allows us to review the various effects of our actions and come up with innovative approaches to problems that could arise.
Sastry concluded the discussion by stating that “our cultural dialogue about failure should change”, and by giving the audience advice on how to design their future projects. First, the freedom to fail is not unlimited and that we should evaluate areas where we can take a risk approach and recognize where we cannot make false steps. Second, we should constantly remind ourselves of our aim, and we should redesign our projects so we have enough time to test them. Finally, we should assess how we achieved our results and what we can do differently.