Nexus & Bettakultcha presents series – The power of failure

Speakers at the latest in our series of Bettakultcha events explored the power of failure.

Held at Nexus and hosted by Nexus Director, Dr Martin Stow and Bettakultcha founder, Ivor Tymchak, five speakers took on the unique short and snappy presentation format – 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide – to share their views.

Referencing Winston Churchill’s famous quote: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm” – Martin Stow welcomed a packed audience in the Nexus atrium, setting the scene for speakers to discuss how failure can be turned into a positive opportunity, both personally and professionally and to ask whether it was possible to be truly innovative without taking risks that could potentially lead to failure.

Michaela Gruia, Founder and Director of Research Retold, spoke about her experience of failing to meet a particular client’s expectations and spending too much time trying to adapt, amend and re-align the concept, when it wasn’t working for them. She commented:

“I learned from that experience not to take it personally, to be objective – ask what actually happened, what could I have done better and how can I ensure it doesn’t happen again – and to be much more upfront about feedback throughout every client collaboration. Without the failure I couldn’t have done that.”

Three men in the foreground of a crowd applauding

Mark Ashton, Founder and Leader of Resolve Gets Results, referenced Jim Collins, author of “Great By Choice” – which explores why some companies thrive in unpredictable and fast-moving times – and described how after a series of setbacks, including the collapse of a parent company and the impact of the 2008 crash, he was now enjoying international success with a group of fellow mentors. He said:

“I studied the attitudes and behaviours of the most successful individuals and companies – it was a great learning experience. Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton’s famous quote: ‘And like most other overnight successes, it was about 20 years in the making’ will resonate with many business owners. Life is a marathon not a sprint.”

Sarah Tulip, Co-Founder of Women in Leeds Digital, described her “wake-up” moment, when during a high-powered Board level career, winning awards and speaking on national platforms to urge companies to address the gender gap in technology, her young son asked if she would ever pick him up from school like other parents did. She said:

“It was a defining moment for me – I thought I was successful but felt I had failed as a mother. I took some very good advice and simply stopped, took invaluable time out to be with my son and reset my work-life balance. Be kind, be authentic and be you – that is the best advice I can give”

Simon Cookson, Co-Founder of Northern Value Creator, spoke about how failing to be himself in childhood, through fear of being judged, helped him to find his own voice in later life. He commented:

“I simply stopped, listened and connected – reading about other people’s experiences and learning from them. There is now much less should in my life and I can really enjoy meeting people, representing my business and speaking at events like this. You can always rewrite your story.”

Female presenter in the Atrium of Nexus

Ben McKenna, Founder of Solidaritech and Managing Director at Totaal, rounded off the discussion by telling us all to stop worrying and to love the fail.

Listing all the things he’d failed to be – including a footballer, a musician, a writer, a “City” boy, a skateboarder, an artist, a film director and a “start-up bro” – and all the things he’d succeeded at – including being a homeowner, father, co-director and champion Super Mario player – he said your perceived failure list would always outweigh your perceived successes. He added:

“You can try to analyse your failures and ask whether they’re down to lack of talent, effort, time or money – but perhaps personal failure isn’t that important, when the system around us isn’t working properly? Personal failure can distract us from actual systematic failure: our financial system, our ecological system and the fact that our children and young people are suffering the highest ever levels of mental health issues. We need to elect better governments, tackle climate change and be excellent to each other and ourselves.”

A big thanks to our speakers and everyone who joined us at the event. Stay tuned to our social media channels to hear about our upcoming events.