Lessons wrapped in Failure; ACE Saturdays reframe entrepreneurial pitfalls

Dr Mira Kassouf Written by Mira Kassouf
Published on 19 October 2020
4 min. read

Are you an early career scientist held back from exploring that enticing entrepreneurial space outside your lab by fear of failure?

Are you someone who is more familiar with innovating beyond the bench but finds the rarely trodden theme of learning from failure an enticing topic?

Then Innovation Forum Oxford’s ACE Saturdays 2020 series is for you.

The founding premise of ACE Saturdays has been ‘learning by doing.’ The series of workshops focusses on addressing core innovation and entrepreneurship themes and are both immersive and novel: offering a different, but complementary, perspective to introductory business toolkits previously offered by IFO (find out more from 2018 and 2019) and continue to be offered in the rich Oxford ecosystem.

ACE Saturdays 2020 is a series of a two-hour virtual ‘capsule workshops’ that will highlight tested paths to a smoother start of a venture by (positively) exploring failure.

The programme includes learning from failure in the following scenarios:

  • 7th Nov 2020 — Hesitating to expand your entrepreneurial horizons as a scientist, with Dr Alan Roth. More Info
  • 5th Dec 2020 — Undervaluing the impact your EQ has on your success, with Philip Gimmack. REGISTER HERE (You can read a guest post on the importance of EQ from Philip here)
  • 16th Jan 2021 — Unknowingly neglecting your end-user’s take on your solution, Sara Mosleh. REGISTER HERE
  • 6th Feb 2021 — Reactively rushing to IP your idea, with Dr Nessa Carey. REGISTER HERE.
  • 27th Feb 2021 — Lacking the grounding of Innovation Strategy, Michele Scataglini and Nigel Greenhill, INSTA Associates. REGISTER HERE.
  • 24th Apr 2021 — Failure to experiment, adapt, and iterate your business concept, with Angela Hobbs and Paul Inness. REGISTER HERE.

Stay tuned for further details and more workshops.

You can register for all or individual sessions as your time and your skillset dictate.


Why did we choose failure to anchor our series, you wonder?

Fail fast fail cheap; perfection is the enemy of progress; the 80/20 principle; all evoke an entrepreneurial mindset that champions what may seem like actively setting yourself up for failure. For a risk-averse high-achiever, the type we encounter in academic research, this is ‘no go’ zone.

Failure is another word for education; this is what we will strive to demonstrate in the ACE Saturdays 2020. We have become aware that reframing failure as education only comes with education. Understanding that barriers to accepting failure reside partly in the emotions it triggers; one of which is vulnerability— a feeling we are wired to avoid at all costs.

In all walks of life, tripping over when we think we are prepared and safe can at best unsettle us, and at worse inhibit us from ever trying again. This is where owning our vulnerability is the only way to try again. As scientists, we are constantly reminded of our vulnerability. Failure is the backbone of a project; a relentless repeat of ‘experiments gone wrong’ either practically or conceptually. Yet, there is no incentive to publishing such records -negative results- despite the fact they are the catalyst to our discoveries, the basis for our troubleshooting, and the essence of our creative solutions.  This is a topic for another day. However, we all agree that only if shared, can these experiences become avoidable paths and no longer a drain to our resources. Only then, will our collective efforts become more efficient in propelling us forward, both at the individual level and as a community.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable but they are never weakness. Vulnerability is not about winning and losing. It is about showing up even when you cannot control the outcome.” Brene Brown.

In the world of entrepreneurship, taking ownership of an idea and seeing it through to a real-world solution is a similar path: long, winding, and fraught with risk and uncertainty. A start-up founder is not a job, it is a way of life that revolves around believing passionately in an idea and finding a supportive ecosystem to build, test, and iterate. This cycle can be seen as “try, fail, and quit” if not done in a safe environment; one where vulnerability becomes a segue to greater success.

Part of the preparation necessary to sit comfortably with the possibility of failure is knowing that on the other side of failure a positive outcome awaits. This comes with experience. An even better start is learning from the wisdom of the generous few who share their failures and provide you with tricks and tools they have learnt as they ‘rewired their flops’ (Brene Brown) and reframed failures as nudges to readjust and iterate, or to pivot and reinitiate.

In a world of deceitfully ‘curated perfection’ as author and journalist Elizabeth Day puts it, ‘learning how to fail is learning how to succeed better’.

This is what ACE Saturdays 2020 is here for! Join us and learn how to succeed better.

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