“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure”: A quote from Bill Gates analysed by Julien Foussard

The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, is also one of the richest men in the world. But the choices he has made, the strategies used, his character and personality make him one of the most inspiring persons ever, according to Julien Foussard.

A great many of his statements are in actual fact life lessons for the business world. The ability to analyse the consequences of a failure and learn from them is a form of strength for a businessman.

How does one analyse failure? Julien Foussard shares his experience

Developing a project and starting up a company implies risk taking. Entrepreneurs are often up against obstacles and difficulties that they must overcome. Making mistakes is normal; in fact, it creates a fantastic opportunity in which to analyse one’s strengths and weakness in a given situation and from there to excel, explains Julien Foussard.  

As an entrepreneur, it is important to tackle a problem head on. By analysing the issue and understanding where it stems from will allow you to do better on both a personal and professional level.

Failure can sometimes be a time for reflexion, to understand the vulnerabilities of a project and examine what you can do to fix them. This type of situation should also be seen as a time for better understanding oneself, adds Julien Foussard. Not just anyone can be an entrepreneur. You need to be committed, steadfast, and brave. Risk taking is encouraged in this profession, which does not make it any less nerve-wracking, but implies that you must be self-controlled and calm. Trial and error are normal and in fact essential when starting up a project. This forces you to find a solution, pushing you to devise ways of improving things.

As an example, the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus was due to a mathematical error, as has been the case for a number of scientific inventions, says Julien Foussard. With that in mind, dare to take the risk! Even if you make a mistake, the experience will only make you stronger and more knowledgeable. 

When faced with failure one should always adopt a positive attitude. You will not learn anything from trying to find a culprit, by being in denial about the reasons for the failure and the consequences that it will have, or by believing that the situation will get better on its own. To learn from one’s mistakes, it is important to be perfectly transparent and to analyse the origin of the mistake in all humility. You can thus use the mistake to bounce back, explains Julien Foussard. In fact, making mistakes is increasingly being seen as you own personal “right” within a company, and is more and more valued. Allowing some “room for error” seemingly installs a more relaxed work environment and by extension makes work more productive.  

The “right” to make a mistake in business, analysed by Julien Foussard

Trial and error are increasingly encouraged and valued as a learning opportunity within a company. Nonetheless, businesses are still very much performance and results driven, which can create a stressful and uneasy work environment for staff. By being pushed to deliver results with no room for error, employees can find themselves in a situation where they are afraid to try and therefore do not dare take a risk. 

Of course, making a mistake can sometimes have negative consequences – regarding the budget, the work calendar, and of time spent for instance. However, by not taking risks, the work environment is at risk of coming to a standstill. A company where everything is meticulously planned out, where the validation process is long and complex, can also be seen as wasting a considerable amount of time and energy. Notwithstanding that finalising a project requires going through a huge number of stages which can hamper its success, thus having a negative effect on the mood and motivation of your staff, adds Julien Foussard. 

Bearing this in mind, it would appear to be more beneficial to encourage staff to take risks and to give them room for error. This would stimulate their imagination, creativity and productivity. Moreover, so that everyone might learn from the mistakes made by others, collaborative and peer exchange workspaces should be encouraged. The sharing of experiences and of lessons learnt are the best ways of getting new ideas and of finding ways to get a project back on the right track. Of course, having some room for error should not prevent you or your staff from anticipating any prior risks or potentials failures. Each and everyone must be doubly careful, driven and determined when a project is launched if this is to be met with the success hoped for, remarks Julien Foussard.

The difference between France and the United States, as analysed by Julien Foussard

A source of dynamics, it is high time to change the way we see mistake-making. Coming back to Bill Gates, he once said that “the only thing holding back innovation in France is the fear of failure” reminds Julien Foussard.

The French relationship with failure is very specific. While in the United States failure is associated to a positive, learning experience, something to put forward on your CV, in France it is only looked upon with shame. In California, for instance, candidates to a job are often asked to give an experience where they failed. Failure means that you tried and that is what is interesting, highlights Julien Foussard. If you hire someone who has never experienced a set-back or failure, who has always walked the straight and narrow, means that you are hiring someone little inclined to take risks or to disrupt habits.

This fear of failure has in fact been put forward many times as the root cause for the lack of a Silicon Valley in France. When François Mitterand questioned Steve Jobs on the matter in 1984, the latter replied without hesitating: “In Europe, failure is a very bad thing, if you mess up after leaving university that failure will follow you your whole life; whilst in the Silicon Valley, we spend our time failing.”

The French view of failure stems from various factors, of which parenting and schooling, during which mistakes are received with a reprimand or a bad note. Whereas in the U.S., on the contrary, mistakes are an indispensable first step towards success and appreciated as a way of getting experience and knowledge. It should also be highlighted that in France, both success and failure are frowned upon, even taboo, as this can be a cause for wariness or jealousy. Thus, whether you try to succeed, or you fail, both are frowned upon and this comes hand in hand concludes Julien Foussard. 

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