FAIL LIVE: Encouraging failure freedom within PGR communities

2019-11-20T15:37:04Z (GMT) by Ursula Kate Hurley Davina Whitnall

The presentation addresses the following themes:
* Strategic opportunities and challenges for organisations in creating and sustaining environments where researchers can flourish
* Innovative and practical approaches to the professional and career development of researchers across all career stages and institutional contexts

What do Post-It Notes and Penicillin have in common? They were both the results of research “gone wrong”, and may easily have ended up in the bin, had the researcher not understood the value of their apparent mistake. Failure is often a considered a negative but looking at it differently can open routes to success. As Foucault pointed out, ‘Error is the permanent contingency [alea] around which the history of life and the development of human beings are coiled’ (Foucault 1998, 477). And yet traditional academic structures may not value mistakes and do not allow time for trial and error as they find it difficult to accommodate this unpredictable process (Naray-Davey and Hurley 2014). We argue that perceptions of risk and failure can be re-positioned as part of a discovery process in which we can explore without fear of the consequences. As Jackson (2003, 7) puts it, to ‘recognize emergent unanticipated outcomes’ with calm curiosity rather than dismay at a plan going awry.

This session explores a series of strategies, case studies and researcher support interventions to encourage researcher resilience, positive wellbeing behaviours and the development of reflective practice. The information presented is based on recent institutional case studies and evaluations. During this practical and hands on session, participants contributions help to form and develop a sectoral consultation paper on the concept of failure freedom to initiate further discussion and research into the approach. Throughout the workshop, we encourage participants to think about failure differently and to embrace failure as a key milestone to success.

Session aims:
- Exploration of case studies and experiences focussed on failure
- Applications of 'failure freedom' in reflective practice for teaching and demonstrating
- Strategies for developing a positive narrative about failure
- Examples of failure freedom practice such as Failure Friday, action learning sets focussing on failure
- Implications of identifying personal or professional unconscious bias to avoid failure
- Participants discover the power of their first 100 fails!