In the business world, many companies and many workers have cultures that punish 'failure'. This fear of failure leads to a lot of average and mediocre work product. No failure, yes. But, also no winning.
Our culture, for the most part, seems to have become caught in a mindset that failure is bad and needs to be avoided at all costs. However, experimentation and trial and error are marvelous ways to come up with great outcomes, as long as their is not a critical amount of risk. An exception to this is direct marketing. The culture and fabric of this function is to test different scenarios in order to maximize response rate and sell through.
No failure means there's no learning, no growth, no excitement. Oooh, yeah!! I get to be average today!!!!
We've even brought this 'don't fail' mentality to our children, although to a lesser extent. Lego blocks are set to build certain things, with instructions on exactly how to create something. What happened to making great things out of Lego's that came from our mind? We scold our kids for making a bad play on the basketball court or we force our school to forbid playing tag because it was getting too rough. If we are placing our children in situations where they're being instructed to not fail/lose, how can we expect them to expand themselves?
Now, I understand that winning and the concept of striving towards that goal can motivate people to find new processes and strategies to win. However, losing has become nearly a pure negative outcome. Losing, most times, has several learning opportunities within them. If we take those learnings and apply them in future situations, we've won. The destination may not have been reached as quickly as we assumed or wished. But, the end result brought forth a lot more substance that will help in the end.
My oldest son is a baseball pitcher on a team that did very poorly this last season. After his first couple of times on the mound, he decided that he was going to play it safe and avoid making mistakes. His body was growing and he needed to figure out his new pitching style. By abandoning his efforts to find what his body could do, he provided little positive energy or special outcomes.
I talked with him towards the end of the season about pitching not to fail. I asked him what the ramifications would be for letting his pitching loose and being agressive. Would they lose by more? Would there be more walks? What that really mean anything given how badly they were losing games.
Agreeing he had nothing to lose by pushing the envelope and exploring what was possible, he pushed to failure. The result was the three best outings he had all season.
Encourage your team to be curious.
Expect them to make mistakes and learn from them.
Be supportive of their learning process.
Know when they may be in over their head and get them the resources they need to be successful.
Once the specter of an huge hammer coming down is removed, the freedom given will bring exponential returns. More energy comes from laughter than screams. Edison didn't create the light bulb from always being right.