“The theme is “Failure×Design” and will be centered around the process of productive failure. We want to provide a platform for honest discussion about the role of failure in design, the many ways we can fail, but more importantly, the countless ways we can overcome it. ”
Although the topic is an important one and many of the anecdotes shared by the speakers were nice, my feeling was that of the presenters I saw, no one really committed to talking about “failure” in it’s most epic and fear-inducing sense. When they spoke about “failure”, it was from a podium at Harvard, with an impressive new title below their name to offset some of the true vulnerability. It felt kind of like a humble-brag from people who had stumbled once or twice, but are still killing it in a career most could only dream about. This isn’t the kind of failure that keeps most of us (the anxious ones anyways) up at night.
What drew me to this conference was an opportunity to learn more about a topic that is at the heart of some of our biggest fears. Being fired, losing all our savings, ruining your reputation, a total collapse of a start-up, losing investor’s money, getting sued, losing colleagues and friends; these are the types of failures that really hit home and are rarely talked about; outside of bars anyways.
Going deep and opening up about real failure would illustrate how one can overcome something catastrophic. It may reinforce that (hopefully) there isn’t a failure too big to overcome. I would have loved to hear some honest perspectives from people who have lost it all and have only partially recovered. In such a story, the anatomy of failure would become more apparent. The conditions, assumptions, and risks that lead to the failure would be brought to light in a kind of cautionary tale that the audience could relate to. It’s emotionally hard to open up about these things in front of a group of 400+, but weirdly enough, I think this type of honesty and vulnerability was what most had hoped for.