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Ron Gantt's picture

Sharing stories of failure

I spoke with a colleague today from NASA and I asked him how important the stories of NASA's past failures are to their culture. Do they talk about them still and learn from them? He said definitely. They even still talk about the failures of the Apollo missions back in the 60's and try to learn lessons.

How important are stories of past failures to your organization? Can sharing stories add value? Can it backfire?

September 25, 2015 @ 01:59 PM EDT Health & Safety

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2 Answers


What an interesting question. I think that so often we're afraid of failure - even in retrospect - that we avoid addressing it whenever it's not absolutely necessary. But NASA is a great example of an organization that has learned so much from its mistakes, because it couldn't afford not to. Chris Hadfield's book, "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" shed a lot of light on their processes for me and is a terrific read for any safety/quality professional, in addition to being a fascinating book in general.

It seems to me that industries typically viewed as "high stakes" industries - e.g. aviation/aerospace, as well as medical - place significant emphasis on learning from past mistakes and it serves them well. We could probably all learn a thing or two from their processes!

September 29, 2015 @ 11:25
Alison Grenkie's picture



Great discussion topic Ron. I would love to go to NASA!

I would be interested in hearing their process for going through past failures, team break out activities, also their system to create a plan which furthers present and future project success.

I'm really interested in hearing other member's stories and thoughts.

September 27, 2015 @ 10:06
Tamara Parris's picture