Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Power of Failure and Argument

Most of us are, by nature, upbringing and education, reticent to examine our failures or engage in vigorous exchange of differing points of view or ideas.

On the argument side, this can be termed brainstorming, discussion, argument; depends on your point of view and communication preferences.  If nothing else, our political leaders and media pundits, and their constant squabbles, reinforce this reticence to embrace failure or regard arguments as a beneficial mechanism to getting things done.

But research shows these mechanisms can actually be very powerful tools for developing critical thinking skills, learning in general, and getting things done. Two recent blog articles discuss these issues in terms far more eloquent (and researched) than I could even attempt:
I think both these excellent articles reinforce a theme that has been building in a few corners of the library world (see the 3/12 T is for Training podcast, and posts in the LSW FriendFeed): a call to engage in more examination and analysis of our failures as library professionals and institutions, especially at conferences and other professional development venues. I also think they hold great untapped potential as mechanisms for information literacy instruction and general training. Students who are not afraid to fail and learn from those failures probably make better critical choices in the long run, and become better researchers. If nothing else, they are probably more willing to ask us for help when they need it!


Shawn said...

Excellent post! Somewhat of a sidebar, but... I've recently exchanged a few tweets with @colleengreene and @kgs about project management and library culture. Perhaps one way to get us to have disagreements and build a positive context for discussing failures is to move in the direction of a PM culture. Project management does many things well. In the context of your blog post, the need for a project to have well defined outcomes, costs, responsibilities etc. creates an environment where the disagreements are around the project - not the people. Additionally, PM gives you to tools to look back on the project successes and failures - project stakeholders have a structure for arguments and can focus on making the next project better by learning from mistakes. -@shawncalhoun

Andy W said...

Karen Klapperstuck and I presented an unconference at ALA 2010 Midwinter called "Set Sail for Fail" (this is my blog post containing the recap with links). We led a group discussion about failures within the library. Check out the video for the whole thing. It's something that Karen and I are working on for future conferences.

I am a vocal advocate for examining failures and figuring out why things didn't work. It's worth our time and energy; and the lessons learned can be applied to future endeavors.

Dana said...

Shawn - an excellent point, although I am a bit reticent of trying to fit everything we do into what can sometimes be somewhat stultifying PM model.But yes, I agree in general.

Dana said...

Andy - I apologize as I did see the video of your great unconference session and it's theme no doubt played it's part in getting me to think about failure. I will edit the post and add the link to your video!

Shawn said...

@dana 100% agree - everything we do does not fit a PM model. Whatever it takes to move us along, I'm all for it.

@andy I watched parts of your unconference on Ustream - Well done! Kicking myself for note being there. The last few conferences i've managed to attend have been huge disappointments and I'm getting a bit gun shy about the mega-conferences.

Ellie said...

I'm glad you liked the article. Thanks for sharing those excellent related links.