The Church of Fail

Feb 19, 2014 | By Staff | Culture Meetings


What kind of company not only celebrates its failures, but actively builds failure into its company culture?

Well, one you probably haven’t heard of, for starters. NixonMcInnes is a social-media consulting group located in Brighton, England. Despite its relative lack of size or notoriety, NixonMcInnes was recently profiled by writer Leigh Buchanan for Inc. Magazine thanks to its unusual, but effective, model for innovation and improvement.

Once a month for the last three years, the company has convened an all-hands meeting often led by operations manager Matt Matheson, affectionately called “The Church of Fail.” The gathering serves as an opportunity for employees to confess their mistakes in a safe zone, without judgment.

The officiant – often Matheson or someone else – invites people up to stand and confess their mistakes. Some blunders are small, such as a dispute with a colleague. Others are more significant: an error that cost the business money or annoyed a client. Employees must describe how they dealt with the situation and say what they will do differently next time.

While this practice may (understandably) seem strange to some, employees of NixonMcInnes feel that creating a company culture where failures are celebrated allows them to move on from past mistakes and even allows them the opportunity to pitch new and innovative ideas that might otherwise never have been surfaced.

Co-founder Will McInnnes believes “Making failure socially acceptable makes us more open and creative.”

Clearly this idea is not for everyone – especially the sensitive. However, creating a culture of openness and honesty (however you choose to do it) is always worth working towards.

This idea of formalizing the opportunity to share mistakes and learn from them would be especially beneficial for organizations whose employees work in dangerous or hazardous jobs. A company with a culture where it’s not only considered okay, but it’s expected, that employees regularly share near-misses and close-calls with one another – without fear of judgment or reprimand – is going to be decidedly safer than one that frowns upon the admission of mistakes.

Would you be willing to convene a Church of Fail at your organization?

Inc. Magazine, November 2013



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