“I am Kevin, and I have failed.” Sound familiar? Kevin Jones, Social Media & Network Strategist/Manager for NASA/MSFC, opened his Enterprise 2.0 conference session with the famous introduction, similar to what is heard at the beginning of an Alcoholics Anonymous’ support group meeting.

As alcoholics are often embarrassed to embrace their struggle, enterprises often share a similar resistance to admitting failure. Jones, however, advocates for a more open dialogue of failure, allowing enterprises to learn from others’ mistakes.

Cultivate a Culture of Trust

To generate an open opportunity for growth, an enterprise must facilitate a reliable environment for trust, which should be an enterprise’s No. 1 priority.

“Trust leads to the ability to fail: Failure leads to learning, which leads to progress,” said Jones. “Without failure, we won’t have progression.”

Instead, a culture of low trust facilitates a fear a failure. Allow employees to take the risks that might result in failures, which will result in greater successes. As the failures come to light, collect and farm the distribution of the success or failure stories.

Underestimate the Political Landscape

More often than not, other people in the organization will find reasons to discourage the latest initiative. Simply put: Don’t be afraid to have people tell you no. Oftentimes, executives will come full circle to applaud the new effort as they come to realize its success.

Do Not Duplicate

In an example of best practices, Jones shared the following example of his failures that he suggested enterprises should avoid:

  • This should be an IT project: Aren’t enterprises primarily about collaboration?
  • Go cheap: think through the complex, more expensive options that will support an unexpected outcome
  • Give them an option: allowing changes to have several pathways will lead to a convoluted solution. With only one option, the change is imminent without being too forceful.
  • Assume this is about collaboration, being social: Don’t forget, changes are often about generating a better overall performance level, not just about being social.


Since Jones come from a mentality of. “What’s broken, let’s fix it,” he truly believes the more organizations talk about their failures, the more there is to grow from. “It makes us take a good, hard look at what we did and learn,” Jones said. “We are going to take what worked and amplify it; we are going to take what didn’t work and improve on it. What’s next? What can we learn from this?”

Jones invites enterprises to share their failures through his blog, vinjones.com, where he invites organizations to share their successes and failures, allowing the community to discuss the outcome.