By Eleonora Ivanova, Raiffeisenbank (Bulgaria) |

“Wasn’t that a mistake?”, “I must have made a mistake”. Thoughts like these usually haunt us. We are afraid to admit them to ourselves, and the thought of saying them out loud to others makes us creative in inventing reasons to avoid it. Fear of making mistakes often paralyzes our initiative and desire to move forward.

But mistakes in our work can be very constructive if we build the right culture in the organization, respond properly to mistakes and learn from them instead of focusing on their negative aspects. Only by learning from our mistakes, can our organization become sustainable.

We have looked at what lies behind the culture of failure and want to share the following four important aspects.

1. Let’s fail smartly

The fear of failure is a fear of pointing fingers. The culture of failure avoids this by making us use our mistakes to do it differently next time. In an organization, when blame is not placed on the person who made the mistake, but the mistake is analyzed and the failure is looked at from different angles, that is probably the most critical step to a successful solution. This is where the role of leaders comes in, enforcing “smartfailing” with their teams and being willing to take advantage of any mistake.

2. Failure teaches us

If we want to innovate and change, failure is inevitable. We all know Thomas Edison’s phrase “I have not failed. I have only found 10,000 ways that have not worked.” And as we search for the right way to light our light bulb, we must accept that there will be many times when it doesn’t light, and that’s okay. The important thing is that we don’t stop trying and continue to do whatever it takes to be successful. Success will come if we persevere.

3. Be responsible when fail

Failure and its recognition do not free us from taking responsibility. The culture of failure encourages each member of the team to take the initiative, look for ways to fail smartly and take on their role. It is important to distinguish two types of failure. First, the one where we didn’t try hard enough, and we knew we should have done better. And second, the one in which we did everything necessary, but we failed, nonetheless. In both cases, the team must stand behind its decisions, find the reasons for the failure, and figure out how to avoid it in the future. 

4. Be transparent and communicate better

Any organization that focuses on transparency and presents its goals publicly performs better. The same is true for attitudes toward failure. The culture of failure teaches us to pay close attention to communication and how we share sensitive issues. When a company shows and tells its employees that it does not tolerate failure, that feeling, and message becomes a reality. The opposite is also true. When the company gives examples of where it has failed and shares ways the team has learned from its mistakes, it creates a positive sense of “smart failure” to grow.


These are just a few guidelines that open the door to a culture of failure and assure us that we can make mistakes if we learn from them and don’t repeat them. In innovation, where everything happens extremely fast, such an understanding is necessary because it helps us not to lag and to be much more adaptable. In this way, we learn faster, look for new approaches and do more. Also, in this way we are more innovative and develop entrepreneurship in the team, which creates new confidence.

Eleonora Ivanova

Eleonora Ivanova

is Social media strategist and content manager, Communication Department, Raiffeisenbank (Bulgaria).