#06 The ultimate guide to… F#!@ing up!
How to embrace the art of fucking up.
Read time: under 4 minutes
Yup. You've heard me right. Today, we're embracing the art of fucking up.
Celebrating failures helps foster a 'fail-safe environment' and stimulates innovation and creativity within your organisation and hopefully assists your team to avoid major pitfalls.
In other words, be proud of making mistakes, because essentially your fuckups help you understand that your biggest enemy can be yourselves and by overcoming your shortcomings, you get to be stronger as you come to know your own strengths and weaknesses.
Fuckups = self-confessed failures
Fuckups are essentially the exact opposite of Wins. We’re destigmatising mistakes to reinforce and accelerate learning.
Companies that stand out typically have this kind of approach to failures. They are eager to try new things, fail as quickly as possible, learn from them, and adapt subsequently.
Instead of sharing ****victories, it hones in on the questions like:
What did I fail at?
What did I do wrong?
How did I cope with it?
How can I do better?
What did I learn?
What would I do differently?
It’s time to admit and say, “I fucked up”.
Easier said than done — now that I understand.
When I decided to leave my Head of Product Design job in 2020, I prepared to address the team for the final time. I outlined the problems I see, how we can potentially tackle it, and admitted how admitted I fucked up.
I wasn’t transparent enough. I didn’t communicate this enough. I didn’t fully take ownership. Being able to share this vulnerability and lessons learned meant others were more open about the things they could’ve done and what they can still do in the future.
New information of struggles, mistakes, and how we could mitigate them started to surface. It was the productive conversations we needed, albeit not soon enough.
Ever since then, I’ve always discussed how I could be a better leader in every job interview I’ve had. I came to understand my pitfalls and strengths better. Sharing this upfront has helped me build trust during interviews which led to a gig offer worth $150k/yr (one that I eventually turned down).
Using ‘fuckups’ to establish a safe environment and bring the team closer together
Lead by example: Encourage the most senior leader in the room to admit his or her mistake or failure to start with. Regardless of where you are in the work hierarchy, you can always share your failures and what you learned from them.
No blaming or shaming, please.
Make the fuckups session more tangible by offering rewards to appreciate your team members’ best learnings.
Never force it. People in general find it hard to open up. If that is the case, be patient and focus on establishing trust first.
Where to use Fuckups:
During regular meetings, such as committee check-ins or weekly team meetings
As an icebreaker
To wrap up a meeting
During a one-on-one
During a workshop
Prompt questions to ask:
What did I fail at this week?
What didn’t go so well?
What did I do wrong this week?
What made you feel shit this week?
How did you cope with it?
What challenges did you face?
How can you do better?
What did you learn?
What would you do differently?
This idea came from Fuckup Nights, a global movement based on sharing business failures in more than 185 cities from 62 countries.
The goal is to come together and learn from each other mistakes. Whether you’re in a startup or corporate environment, shortening the cycle to learn will greatly benefit you and your team's trajectory.
You’re going to fail, so might as well do it smartly.
Our ability to learn when things go south is what helps us grow. Not just as individuals but as an industry.
The key to a good fuckup sharing session is to encourage your team to talk openly about what went wrong, what could've been done differently to prevent the errors, and how they can do better next time. By making fuckups part of your culture, you will allow your team to admit and learn from their mistakes.
Want to learn more?
If you're interested in running this play to promote Fuck-ups in your team, join managers from 40+ countries using UX Management Playbook. Get detailed step-by-step guides and templates to supercharge your UX process.
I hope you found this helpful.
See ya next week