What is Noble Failure anyways?

January 26, 2018

There’s that old saying “to err is human”. But it goes against so much of our inner essence — who really wants to fail anyway? It brings up negative connotations and seems so pessimistic. Jeffrey Solomon and Charles Bronfman describe a phenomenon they call noble failure — the ability for a project to fail in order to gain valuable learning experiences.

There is a weird power struggle with donor/funder and the charity when it comes to failure. In the book Generation Impact written by Goldseker & Moody, there is a great quote from a young philanthropist:

No matter what you say, [nonprofits] are always going to treat you like you hold the power because in the end, you kind of do. I try to be really honest and express that we’re not looking for perfection. We understand that things aren’t always going to go your way, and that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to fund you anymore. I always try to keep really open lines of communication, to show that we are genuinely invested and support what they’re doing. It’s building a relationship that’s more friendly than, “I’m holding a check over your head.”

In an earlier post, I contended that many great ideas were born out of ideas that were noble failures. It’s that constant fear of losing a donor’s gift by having an idea fail that holds back innovation. I would be more afraid of losing a donor’s respect by whitewashing a program that didn’t go as expected. By embracing noble failure, you can fine-tune the future.

Until next week — l’chaim!

jack