I had a great meeting this week with Elizabeth Varley of TechHub which is a hotbed of entreprenerial activity near the Old Street Roundabout. We kicked around some ideas for working together and the one that got us both most excited was to organise some kind of Failcamp.

It’ll be some kind of barcamp inspired one-day gathering to share experiences of failure. A bit of online research points to a few having been held in the past in various places. (Of course several appear to have failed to take place at all).

I’ve been keen for some time to do more work around the shadow side of work. Our culture tends to focus on success, and it sometimes seems that even failure must be reframed only as a useful learning experience. It feels like we’re often not allowed just to feel the pain before someone comes along with a tiresome reframe and an implied demand to move on.

So in our format I hope we’ll come up with something that allows the sharing of stories without the requirement to do anything in particular with them, as well as the opportunity to learn lessons if that works. We might not stick entirely to a barcamp approach… I was thinking some anecdote circles would be good as part of it, the chance to tell and hear stories of failure while suspending the urge to interpret them. We’ll invite everyone on the basis that they’ll share some genuine stories of their own and not just sit around analysing other people’s.

If someone invites us to “embrace failure” it might be good to get a bit clearer about what exactly that means. It could be an invitation to spiritual practice, but can sound like a mere slogan.

Against expectations, we often create much stronger connections with each other through vulnerability than strength. The great thing about looking at shadow sides of life is that in can be unexpectedly uplifting and energising. So we may want to open some space for more playful ways of exploring failure.

Anyhow, we’ve pencilled Saturday April 9th in the diary at TechHub and all thoughts on format welcome. Details will gradually eke out via TechHub updates, which you can subscribe to here. We’re using the hashtag #failcampldn.

4 thoughts on “Failure

  1. Mike Butcher

    What is the tech / startup angle here? I’m not saying there isn’t one, just that it would be good to frame that from the word go. For instance, the big phrase in tech startups right now is “Pivot”. While others are saying pivot is just another way of saying, we failed and now we have to change. So you could of course call it #PivotCamp 😉

  2. Johnnie Moore

    Yeah good point, Mike. This was a stream of consciousness this afternoon and we’ll get clearer on the tech/startup spin as it comes together.

    As for the name, and I’d pivot (ahem) a mile from euphemisms. I like the idea of calling it failure. Tho we did wonder about #losercamp, that was probably taking the embrace a bit too far 🙂

  3. Anne McCrossan

    Both me and my shadow think this is a great idea and we would love to come. The date’s in the diary.

    To Mike’s point in my opinion a tech/startup angle is the insights that failure gives, the insights on a market space, opportunity, need, the insights that gives the startup the momentum to exist.

    Failcamp is calling it what it is; it’s ok to get to that ‘bottom of the pit this is hopeless’ place that’s the place of genesis for new stuff.

    And it’s very easy to trick ourselves that we don’t need insights because they most often come from failure not success.

    I’m for a full expose, and for failcamp, glorious.


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