A Failure-Averse Society: R U Bot or Not?

26 May

“You can try new things as long as you don’t fail.”
“It’s not that we are risk-averse. We’re just failure-averse.”
“You’re allowed to try new things as long as you succeed.”

These are all statements overheard by management in the past year.  Both in my company and others that I work closely with.  No wonder my younger engineers are growing frustrated.

What happened to the legacy of Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison where failures were seen as another step towards success?  When you were applauded for  “picking yourself up by the bootstraps” rather than being punished for daring to trip or fall?  Where calculated-planned-for risks were expected? 

A failure-averse culture does not jive with the American Dream of entrepreneurship and the commitment to the pursuit of happiness.  Risk can be good.  And it can be bad. But suppressing all risks stifles creativity and passion and innovation – the bedrocks of our society and integral human skills.

If we continue to tell people: “Don’t leap. Don’t dream. Don’t attempt great things” we may as well build a nation of robots. Throw out the Mavericks and Macgyvers and Michelangelos.  Even the Mozarts.  Welcome the bots.  They won’t take risks, they won’t fail, they won’t think.

R U Bot or Not?


2 Responses to “A Failure-Averse Society: R U Bot or Not?”

  1. sharon May 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    I hear you….and agree, wholeheartedly!!! But I don’t get the vodka thing? (Obviously I’m missing something, though not surprising)! Why bother challenging yourself in new ways if you risk employment for doing so? Such a framework only kills productivity and upward progress. In the end we’ll end up status-quo at best, without drive, or passion or confidence to present new ideas.

  2. ezelie May 26, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    I don’t actually fully understand the Bot/Vodka ad either. But I pass it on the highway all the time and the question “RU Bot or Not?” annoys me – maybe I’m the only Bostonian who does not feel like a bot and doesn’t want to. Isn’t that part of the reason I like thinking about a God who created me – who took delight in making each of us unique with different skills and passions? I prefer that to an “IRobot” existence.

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