Week 52 Bono on failure and learning

I was asked by Internetworld to give my take on 2010 happenings, and what i was hoping for in 2011. The whole thing made me think a bit more about the whole act of leadership and the responsibility that comes with developing people as well as ideas. This reflects upon the book that i was sent by Emil Ems.

After attending my friend Ph.D David Bismarks course on Publishing and Social Media earlier this year i met Emil Ems, another curious Ph.D I taught how to blog. He was set with a wonderful skill, he was very curious and had an ambition to learn, so he just needed a push in the right direction and he was on his way. What i did not know, was that he was to sum up his travelling diaries from California and make a book about it. A first “preview” book was printed and sent to me, limited edition issue 10/10. Perfect for christmas reading. Stories and pictures from my favourite universities, yay!

This act of learning, speaks to me of the polarity of 2010 in the way that we in Sweden, a high-tech nation, yet we still have people who don’t know how to use mail, or what a browser is etc. Emil is not one of the people, and probably never will be, due to his curious nature, and will to find out how things work, finding another way of solving current issues.

However we have a huge digital devide in Sweden where closer to a milion (1/9) of Swedens population is still uses the internet very seldomly or never. As not everyone posesses the the curious nature that will find a way to learn like Emil, we still cant afford having illeteracy in Sweden. The IIS aka .SE is is doing a wonderful job minimizing the digital devide, and conquering the digital analfabetism that cripples so many, by offering to create projects that teach especially elderly that are over represented in the group of digital illeteracy.

The act of learning is a tedious part, and like many new things we learn, you have to be comfortable sitting in a chair – knowing nothing. Accepting that you know nothing. That can be a pretty stressful concept for a lot of people, especially if you are taking to much information, and we can’t consume it. A good teachers role is to see when the student has had enough, and can walk out of the session feeling sucessfully taught, and proud with what they have learned. This way a student can start making new thoughts and new argumentations for logical ideas.


We know that people get stuck. And  frustrated. Even angry. (Including me) The point is that even if we don’t manage to learn everything, its not a failure, if you have really tried, and learned from it. Edward de Bono says it best with his famous quote:

“Fully justified venture which did not succeed for reasons which could not have been predicted and which were beyond control” – Edward de Bono

Being curious and willing to test new things will make you fail, you can count on it. We need to start learning that at that given point you know what didn’t work. It’s not the end of the world. It never has been, it never will be. And it automiatically let’s you test new ways, new possibilities. I’m hoping that more people in leading positions take it to their heart that people need to develop, test, and learn how to fail successfully to not grow old at mind. Development (people and products) is a question of leadership advocacy, and tech is just the device. I hope we all in our everyday leadership with our dreams and goals start keep this in mind.

Summing up:

  • Some mistakes are better learned from watching others
  • We should be learning by failing, as if we are learning to walk.
  • We should welcome some failures, as we then know we have at least given it a fair shot.

Worth the read and look:

  • Too bad we’re thaught mistakes are bad in school.

    • I agree, the classic old fashioned school system has a lot left to wish for. Do check out the videos I added, at the bottom of the post. “School Kills Creativity” is a classic, and the “This is Bullshit” is my new favourite, by Jeff Jarvis.

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  • Emil Ems

    Dear Heidi,

    I was thrilled to find my name in your learned discussion above! Nonetheless, I have to point out that much of what I know and am doing nowadays has its origin in the school system of yore. In those days long past, there was a belief that you could make a pre-selection of the most gifted and clever young children and put them in special schools catering for their needs, with the state financing all the outlays for those parents who could not afford the stiff fees. I won’t tell which country embraced such high ideals of meritocracy and, in any case, no Western state would dare to follow this example nowadays in this age of equality and non-discrimination; or would they? I come to think of special schools being dedicated to sports and music, albeit none being dedicated to the very gifted students in general. Maybe that is a good thing, but the price to pay is a dearth of well-educated, intelligent and creative leadership in society!

    By the way, my California blog, the one Heidi is mentioning, can be found at emilems.blogspot.com