I get knocked down, but I get up again

I’m going through one of my, seemingly increasingly more, regular quiet periods here. Partly because I am actually busy doing work stuff that doesn’t give me much time to write here.

Not all the work stuff is easy to get to fruition, and over the last few months several small projects that I have had on the go have foundered for a variety of reasons. Getting knock backs is part of the game of course, though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.

But in the last two weeks I’ve attended two really inspirational events, on very different scales and with very different line ups of speakers.

The first was Nesta’sThe Innovation Edge‘ conference. Amongst the presenters were Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Bob Geldof. Tim famously invented the world wide web as a small side project around his day job. Bob Geldof, as well as being a former rock star and founder of Band Aid, is a serial entrepreneur.

Two things stuck with me from their talks.

  • From Tim: don’t be afraid to experiment and give people space in their jobs to try.
  • From Bob: learn to embrace failure it happens more often than success but you cannot succeed if you don’t know what failure feels like.

Now these two guys are at the top of their fields, and vastly experienced. You’d expect world renowned heavy hitters like them to say that. Its easy to agree with them, but a damn sight harder to apply.

Well on Tuesday evening I went along to an event run by consummate networker, the redoubtable Oli Barrett. A different kind of event in every way – smaller and intimate, but equally inspirational. The format was three excellent speakers followed by some speed-networking (Oli claims to have introduced this concept to the UK, but I won’t hold it against him).

Girl who knows everyone Emma Mulqueeny describes the speakers and their pitches much better than I could. But two of them, Caspar Berry and Shed Simove, both talked about the value of embracing failure and keeping going if you want to succeed.

Takeaways that I picked up:

  • From Caspar: Understanding and embracing risk is good. Don’t try to mitigate but meet it full on. Success is all about luck so the more times you fail, and the more you risk, the greater the more reward when you do hit gold.
  • From Shed: Just keep going, generate ideas and making them happen. Most will fail, only few will be successful. But the failures demonstrate to others an ability to make things happen and see them through, rather than just giving up.

How can we apply this to our work on government digital stuff?

At the moment, despite increasing interest, all this experimental social media stuff is difficult to sell to decision makers and budget holders. Its tricky to demonstrate the value to the business, what the return might be, the cost of investing in time and skills. Its all just difficult.

If you find yourself in this position, two words – keep trying.

One of those ideas is going to be a winner. But if you give up at the first hurdle, you’ll never know which idea.

If you are working on projects that you ar struggling with, please share your experiences – the failures as well as the successes – with your peers and colleagues across government. We all want, and need, to learn from each others epxeriences. To take the lessons and try and improve upon them next time. Perhaps we can all help each other.

  1. You really don’t need to say anymore. I think one of the key things we can do to help each other diligently write up our case studies and also thoughtfully review each others efforts. Simon Berry is providing space to share this.

    • alex
    • May 30th, 2008


    Small successes sustain us.

    Then we share them amongst one another to have a gratifying feeling at the end of the day.

    Not much different to life in the caves, and a successful hunt, really ??

    Have you thought of arranging a conference, and charging people a lower rate than the typical competition ?

    It might make some money, and be a chance to network across government and the private sector. It could be the workers equivalent of Intellect. No prawn sandwiches though.

  2. @Nick – power to the people!
    @Alex – funny you should say that. Been thinking about this for a while. When are you down next?

  3. As well as being willing to fail, I think we need to be willing to start. Too often we feel the need to be able to see the end: “what’s the ROI on blogging? the return on conversations?” rather than being willing to get stuck in and see what happens. my favourite Party metaphor again. You can go with the plan to cop off with person X and be miserable because you don’t or you can go and enjoy yourself and heh maybe meet person Y instead, a person you’d have missed if (s)he wasn’t on your Party Gantt chart.

  4. @Paul: Too right!

  5. How about CockupCamp? “Here’s my balls-up – now show me yours”.

    Could be a winner.

  6. @Dave: How could you cram all of them into two days ? 🙂

  7. Heh. Bastard.

    • futurewww
    • June 4th, 2008

    …so this is what government blogging comes to….!

  8. Hmm government blogging? Not here!

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