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The Best Way to Avoid Failure in Any Situation

The Best Way to Avoid Failure in Any Situation

It’s widely recognized that most people hate to fail. People, maybe yourself included, hate failing to such an extent that they give up trying—after all, if you don’t try, you cannot fail, and if you don’t fail, you don’t have to deal with the negative emotions connected to failure. In the end you end up in your own dark corner of the world, but at least you haven’t failed at anything. Does it have to be like this? What if I could give you an injection that would ensure that you’ll never suffer a catastrophic failure again? I bet you’re already rolling up your sleeve. Stay with me and I will tell you how to give yourself that very booster shot.

Scenario #1:

You’re up in front of the board, giving the presentation of your life, and you have everyone in the palm of your hand. Everything you say resonates with them, and you are in control. Suddenly somebody spills a glass of water and shouts out just as you are about to make THE statement. Your mind goes blank, you skip two slides without noticing it, nobody understands what you are saying and what was supposed to be your triumph ends in total failure.

Scenario #2:

You’re onstage for the first time, and you’re playing your heart out, putting every emotion you have into every note and they come out beautifully. Suddenly there is a sharp tone in everyone’s ears—the dreaded feedback. The sound guy does a good job of killing it and it dies out, but you have forgotten where you are in the song, so you freeze; no more tones come out. Your moment of glory turns to dust.

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Have you experienced something like this?

The things that are present in both scenarios are quite common, but don’t always end in failure. Unexpected things don’t always happen or throw you off. The thing that went wrong in the two examples given is not that something unexpected or unpleasant happened, but that there was no preparation for it. You didn’t practice failing! Read that again, “practice failing”, aka failing with grace.

Practice Failing?

Isn’t failure what we are trying to avoid? Well, yes, but in order to avoid failure, we have to take the possibility of failure and unexpected events into account. You need to know what to do when something goes wrong! If you prepare in a vacuum you can only truly succeed in a vacuum.

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With the first scenario, when you’re preparing a presentation, make sure you can start (or restart) it from any slide. Figure out answers to all difficult questions beforehand, and run through the presentation with the radio in the background so you know you can stay on track amid distractions Figure out what can go wrong and have a plan! That is failing with grace, because when turbulence strikes it will not seem like failure at all.

The second example could be handled this way: learn the song even more fluidly, practice starting it in the middle, and figure out a nice little phrase you can play as backup when you don’t know where you are. Place a friend in the audience who knows the song and can direct you if you get lost. Above all else, never stop playing! Nobody knows what you are about to play, so just act as is everything is happening exactly as you expected, and enjoy yourself.

Conclusion
Ultimately, failing with grace comes down to preparation, and the more often you practice this, the less often disaster will strike. On the off chance that it does, it will becomesa learning experience as well. I promise.

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“The only real failure is the one from which we learn nothing.” ― Henry Ford

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is this: the next time you prepare for something—a presentation, a show or an interview—put these ideas into practice and prepare even more. Figure out what can go wrong beforehand, and make plans how to deal with each scenario.

What do you do to handle failures?

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated,

“Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

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In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

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Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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