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Help Us Celebrate Your Failures. Really.

Paul Maguire/Shutterstock.com

You’ve heard the expression “success has many fathers; failure is an orphan.” Help us turn that around at our May 7 Excellence in Government conference here in Washington. We’re looking for a few brave souls willing to own their failures in the interest of helping their peers learn from their mistakes.

Government employees sometimes feel as if they’re under a microscope. The media often trumpet your failures with a little help from third parties with an ax to grind. But by leaving the discussion of what doesn’t work to outsiders, federal employees cede the possibility for honest learning that comes from truthful introspection. If you’ve ever reached for programmatic glory only to fall short, please consider sharing your story with the State Department’s Richard Boly and myself at a session aimed at teasing out the lessons to be learned from this sort of failure.

Here are the particulars:

There’s actually a name for this event: A failfaire.

Your job: Using a modified version of the presentation methodology Pecha Kucha -- 20 slides, autoadvancing every 30 seconds – tell a first-person account about learning from failure. Richard and I will work with you to help you make this compelling.

After three presenters tell their stories, our audience will vote for their favorite presentation, after which we’ll have a discussion about what was learned from the experiences.

Lastly, we’ll announce the winner of the first federal Failfaire. If you think this could be you, please send me an email at kpeters@govexec.com and put “failfaire” in the subject line.

A few more particulars about the presentations: They should tell a personal story (no blaming others) that describes the project, the goal, where it went wrong, what you would do differently (or never again), and what lessons others might take from your experience.

(Image via Paul Maguire/Shutterstock.com)


Katherine is deputy editor of Government Executive Media Group, a division of Atlantic Media, where she oversees editorial coverage for GovExec.com and Government Executive magazine. She previously was executive editor of Nextgov.

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