Sometimes you have got to take the risk of failing #octel

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
― Michelangelo Buonarroti

As you have probably guessed I have gone “off piste” again this week.  The #octel mooc is looking at project work, success/failures and risk management and how particularly when technology is involved you need to plan and plan well.  Now I must admit that if you are unfamiliar with project planning then this will be really helpful to you – however at my University we are all over this topic, I do this stuff all the time.

In fact as an institution we are reaching the stage where our requirements and committees and approval routes are having a negative effect on our ability to be “Agile” and move at the speed required to keep current with modern technology as well as raising the cost of our projects.

So I am going to put the opposite argument and say we should put our effort into doing more things and expect some things to fail.  Rather than putting so much effort into avoiding failure that we can only deliver a few things.

This TED talk explains why that is now the correct way to do this.

Crazy Guy

Oh – you should still do some project planing, so you know what it is you are trying to achieve!  Also this is Education and thus affects peoples future, so if what you are doing is going to get people killed or cause them to fail the course – do avoid those risks!  But if its a risk like a lesson going wrong – do it, Jump!

I should point out this is not a criticism of my institution – all institutions that are like us (big, existed a long time, successful, good reputation) will have similar problems.  In fact we are taking steps to avoid the problem with an innovation fund so that we can just do stuff because it looks like a good idea.  I want to call it the “It might fail, fund” but sadly a more sensible name will probably be chosen.

9 thoughts on “Sometimes you have got to take the risk of failing #octel

    1. josephgliddon Post author

      Thanks Jo – yes its is a good talk, I have also looked at the website as well now and there are a lot of good ideas on it. Quite like the Qube idea, I wonder if its easier than second life

  1. Imogen Bertin

    Eeeeuw. Very shouty. He could have got that across in about 2 mins with one graph and no shouting and it would have been just as effective. True, but doesn’t really get us anywhere because you still have to attempt to forecast/project plan in order to get the necessary buy-in from your colleagues/stakeholders etc to obtain resources. Project planning is really a communication activity… ?

    1. josephgliddon Post author

      Thanks Imogen – I quite like shouty 🙂
      Do you think people would pay as much attention to a graph without the “dramatics” going on around it?

  2. David Jennings

    Hi Joseph, First, I have to admit I only got about 4 minutes into the video – it didn’t seem to be addressing the point I’d like to argue, which is that risk management should not be confused with risk avoidance. Just because you’re aware of the risks you’re taking it does not follow that you have to take a clenched-sphincter approach and prevent every one of them from occurring. I’ve heard it said that, in fields where innovation is prized, if 10% of your projects don’t fail and fall flat on their faces, then you’re almost certainly going to choke off innovation. That’s an anecdote, not evidence-based, but it has a ring of truth to it. The point being that when risks occur and things go wrong – as they do and as they should – you at least have some fall-back position and don’t have to go cap in hand for a government bailout of £x billion. Take the risk, but protect the downside.

    1. josephgliddon Post author

      Thanks David – yes you are right, I am probably running two problems together into one here.
      First – risk aversion, there is a tendency to try to avoid all risks as you point out
      Second is taking so long to prepare that it negatively affects your productivity – and the video relates to this in that it claims that it is no longer possible (for a lot of areas) to reach the stage where you do know everything. (look at about 10.20 in video for a diagram)

      I think I am arguing that – for those who are totally risk adverse, trying to avoid all risk is even more problematic now because 1) you will choke off innovation and 2) it has become almost impossible to know everything and thus know all of the risks.

      I do like project planning – I just want to make sure I stay agile when doing it

  3. Pingback: The One Right Answer? | Joyful Latin Learning -- Tres Columnae

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