The dirty word

Failure’s a funny word. Then again it’s not really is it? In universal terms failure denotes demise or disappearance, not winning and coming a forgettable second or, let’s face it, generally losing a large pot of cash.

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By  James Bennett Published  June 6, 2006

|~||~||~|Failure’s a funny word. Then again it’s not really is it? In universal terms failure denotes demise or disappearance, not winning and coming a forgettable second or, let’s face it, generally losing a large pot of cash. Back in the UK, where I’m from, and with the football World Cup just around the corner flag, ‘glorious failure’ is almost encouraged. It all starts with the gigantic build up of public hope and expectation around a ‘great’ team, a ‘wonderful’ leader and a group of ‘talented’ individuals who form the spine of a ‘potentially victorious’ squad of players…and then we get knocked out of the competition in the second round. At least we dreamt that we could succeed and come out on top, but somewhere in the dark recesses of our English subconscious, we also knew that we would fail – gloriously. The same can be said of the UK business world where one of the Labour government’s favourite buzzwords is ‘entrepreneurialism’, encouraging people to start and run businesses, even if they fail. Of course hordes of companies disappear without a trace, but the best of a bad bunch always seem to get back up on their feet and start all over again. 5600 km away I’ve noticed that in the Middle East, failure is almost seen as a dirty word. I persistently pose the question but generally get a refusal to answer at every turn. And if they do agree to divulge, only a handful of CEOs I’ve interviewed have dared to skim the surface. Invert the question, however and discuss success and how to make it big in the region (see our main feature on page 44) and you’ll be on the phone or around the mahogany boardroom table for hours. Talking about success should be encouraged and long may the region continue to flourish, but there seems to be no middle ground on the issue. Surely, and perhaps this is my Englishness seeping through, learning from your mistakes and moving on to build something even bigger, stronger and faster is to be encouraged? Just imagine if some of the world’s best ideas had been left by the wayside at the first sign of trouble. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard would still be stuck in a garage in San Francisco, Richard Branson would still be running a mail order business in his bedroom and Bill Gates would have ended up selling PCs and software in a Seattle hypermarket. There should be a more open dialogue between chief executives about the region’s business blunders and the lessons learnt. After all, where is there a more entrepreneurial spirit if not in the Middle East? Revolutionary ideas, ambitious projects and never-before-seen schemes pop up faster here than anywhere else in the world. People may lose money, face and reputation in the process of failure, but in the grand business scheme of things so what if one goes wrong, let’s encourage those that have fallen at the first hurdle to build another project and ensure that they don’t repeat the same errors again. Among the incredible achievements and amazing success stories the region has to offer, failure may sometimes go unreported but it does exist. Fear of failure is one thing but the fear of discussing it can only hinder the progress of Middle Eastern CEOs of the future. Let’s open the dialogue, exchange stories and not turn failure into a dirty word.||**||

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