The history of science and engineering is filled with examples of failure and perseverance. Take Thomas Edison for instance — you know, the guy who invented the light bulb? — he went through literally thousands of designs before finding the right one.

It’s the same in software.

Most of the time features will go through several iterations before they are finally ready for the user. Not perfect; nothing is truly ever “done” in the software world.

There’s a lot of drive out there to be perfect, especially for developers. We’re expected to deliver perfect “bug-free” products. The truth is, people (and features) are never perfect.

We all slip up and make mistakes. Realizing that and cutting everyone – including yourself – a little slack will make a world of difference to your team’s growth and productivity.

Here are three things you can do now to help create an atmosphere where failure is acceptable.

1. Be nice

You remember the “Golden Rule” they taught you in kindergarten, right?

It still applies. This means no belittling and no back biting.

Be open with your fellow developers. Communicate. Ask questions. Provide constructive feedback. These are great teaching moments for the whole team — take advantage of the opportunity.

2. Don’t be a control freak

Loosen the reigns. Trust your coworkers. Let others feel like you have confidence in them.

It’s difficult and stressful to try and place your team inside an unrealistic bubble of perfection. Constantly trying to “save face” stifles team creativity and leads to resentment from both clients and team members.

Sit back and let your team get messy. They aren’t going to learn if they aren’t given the opportunity to get their hands dirty.

This may or may not result in failure.

But remember, failure isn’t bad.

3. Separate actions from identity

The person who fails is not a failure. They made a mistake. Mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth for the entire team.

Avoid blaming and assigning labels to people. When enough people pass judgement on to another person, they often start believing it themselves and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Final thoughts

These principles are geared towards developers, but, in reality, they apply in many aspects of life. The goal is to create a working environment that enables people to experiment and be creative.

The last thing you want is for your team to feel like they are walking on eggshells all the time.

No-one should be afraid to fail.


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