"Why is there such thing as failure, and what does it really mean?”

How would you respond?

As leaders we’ve seen the notion of failure slingshot from backroom whispers to the forefront of performance reviews. Thanks to omni-changing environments in tech and startups, retail and e-comm, internet entrepreneurs, mergers and more, the topic of failure has become ubiquitous in business. What was once a largely event-based phenomenon has gained momentum to shape a culture within itself.

In fact, over the past decade, the “F” word kicked into overdrive from muted, taboo roots to prevalent, second-nature dialogue.


As a culture, we’ve come to recognize failure as a valuable skill. How one navigates and uses it to hone perspective become synonymous with resilience, introspection, and more authentic leadership. This perhaps is a compelling perspective behindCollins’ original notion of balancing personal humility with professional will.

Further, fail champions like Richard Branson assert failure and rejection are inevitable in business, and the development of coping mechanisms ultimately defines ones success. With increased dialogue, the stigma and judgment surrounding failure has changed.

Some argue leadership is inherent and not learned. Could the same be said for cagey, charismatic leaders who walk through the fail fire?

What does it even mean?

The concept is simple: risk versus reward. For those refusing to shrink from challenge, payback (regardless of form) can far surpass initial investment – but failure is a likely outcome of any risk. In the March 2015 issue of Entrepreneur, writer Tasha Eurich suggests bouncing back from failure hinges on the ability to learn. Given prevalence of startups, increasing venture capitalism, and [growing] anticipation of new venture realities, a new culture of failure has come to fruition.

While HBR attempted to redefine failure in 2010, we’ve still yet to reach consensus on what it means in business. Is there a time limit? Can it be positive, and should we gain from its concept?

Fail fast, they say.

What does it mean to you?