BetaGov Blog

Failing Forward

Posted on May 7, 2019     By Angela Hawken

Woman floating above the ground in front of a wall

Our team is in awe of BetaGov Pracademics who have had the courage to “fail forward.” These Pracademics are assets to their agencies and to us all, by insisting on measuring progress and bringing attention to practices that are not working. Most public agencies are risk-averse; leadership and staff are happy to showcase successes but quick to circle the wagons if something has not worked the way they had hoped. If more people in the public sector embrace failure as an often-necessary step on a path to success, it will create venues for learning.

Learning does not create the failure! There is failure all around us. Learning can expedite weeding out what doesn’t work. But there are responsible ways to fail. The wellbeing of your staff and the people you serve is always the priority. If you are introducing something new, is there a reasonable expectation that it will improve outcomes? Are you starting small? If you start small it is easier to keep a close eye on how this new approach is working and you’ll be nimbler in making changes if necessary. It is easier to steer and STOP a small ship than a big one. The greater the unknown, the stronger the case for starting small.

We are equally in awe of our Pracademic partners who have committed to iterative learning, refining what they are doing through test-refine-retest-refine-retest….The social challenges our Pracademics are tackling are too important for complacency. In showcasing continual learning from past efforts they teach others that it’s almost always possible to improve on the status quo.