Why is Everyone Afraid of Failure?

Why is Everyone Afraid of Failure?

John Nosta 05/08/2021
Why is Everyone Afraid of Failure?

Failure is as essential as success in many business models.

But the public 'announcement' of failure can take a learning experience and turn it into a real disaster! One glance at the airline industry and you can see how an experience can go viral.

And in today's world, the word of failure can be passed along with "electronic rubber stampers" called Twitter and Facebook. Calling attention to failure is nothing new, but the use of both social media and the hashtag FAIL has made it a powerful tactic and created one of the most resonant and dangerous signals online.

A simple tweet, combined with the product or service 'kiss of death' hashtag will activate corporate headquarters, local brand managers and regional sales offices in an instant and, simply put, drive rapid action. Of course, carried to an extreme, there's also the potential for a viral run with the individual tweet. But in most cases, a single use of the FAIL hashtag combined with a brand name will provoke a significant response.

Here are a few real world examples where #fail resulted in an immediate and successful response. I've 'blinded' them to protect the brands.

  • The hotel conference room was too hot. An almost instant response from the local manager and a digital corporate reply.
  • A rejected merchandise return at a major retailer. The store manager stayed late to accommodate the newly accepted return.
  • The rental car that smelled of smoke. Direct corporate reply and a voucher for free rentals.
  • A high-end chain restaurant with bad service. The server was replaced and there was no charge for the meal.

The list can go on and on. But the bottom line is that this hashtag is potent and on the radar of larger companies who have digital presence and savvy.

What's the future of #FAIL? Today, it's a common twitter term and has gained wider use to reflect almost any type of bad outcome or failure—from politics to sports to transportation. But it's still a term of trade for the twitterati and hasn't much popular use. So there's still lots of room for this term to gain broader utility. But the bigger issue is the exploitation of #FAIL to 'get over' and exploit this for personal reasons built around an exaggerated or false claim. The attraction of a free meal or free goods may be too tempting for many who wish to game the system. And companies will begin to walk a finer walk between the automatic "bend over backwards" response and adopt a more measured policy. 

Nevertheless, if you want to 'cry fire' in a crowded marketplace. The electronic yell #FAIL will get you the attention you wish...or don't wish to receive.

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John Nosta

Digital Health Expert

John is the #1 global influencer in digital health and generally regarded as one of the top global strategic and creative thinkers in this important and expanding area. He is also one the most popular speakers around the globe presenting his vibrant and insightful perspective on the future of health innovation. His focus is on guiding companies, NGOs, and governments through the dynamics of exponential change in the health / tech marketplaces. He is also a member of the Google Health Advisory Board, pens HEALTH CRITICAL for Forbes--a top global blog on health & technology and THE DIGITAL SELF for Psychology Today—a leading blog focused on the digital transformation of humanity. He is also on the faculty of Exponential Medicine. John has an established reputation as a vocal advocate for strategic thinking and creativity. He has built his career on the “science of advertising,” a process where strategy and creativity work together for superior marketing. He has also been recognized for his ability to translate difficult medical and scientific concepts into material that can be more easily communicated to consumers, clinicians and scientists. Additionally, John has distinguished himself as a scientific thinker. Earlier in his career, John was a research associate at Harvard Medical School and has co-authored several papers with global thought-leaders in the field of cardiovascular physiology with a focus on acute myocardial infarction, ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.

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