Coffee with Glen, CEO of Brazzlebox

The Gift of Doubt and the Power of Failure

Good Morning. Today’s blog comes from our Director of Strategy Roger Frank. Read on and enjoy and I will be back on tomorrow to give you my update from the Jersey Shore and the businesses still affected by Hurricane Sandy…Glen

The Gift of Doubt and the Power of Failure

Dear Fellow Brazzleboxers, (OK, is that a word? What should we call ourselves?)

Thanks for your kind words and comments on my recent introductory blog “My Own Backyard”. For those of you new to microfinance, it’s worth reading about. Yes, one day it will be it’s own blog but for now, I think you’ll find it a fascinating subject and transformative way to impact people’s lives. But more on that later…

Little did I think my second blog would be a book review but after reading a summary of “The Gift of Doubt” by Malcolm Gladwell, I could not help myself. It’s about Albert Hirschman and the power of failure. Hirschman was a German economist and if you have the time, the June 24th issue of The New Yorker has the article. Why I felt it important to share is because as small business owners we doubt and challenge ourselves all the time. No one ever said it would be easy to take that plunge but yet, we do it every day. What Hirschman describes so brilliantly is the power of doubt and need for creativity to come up with new solutions to old problems.

While Hirschman made his economic arguments without mathematical formulas or complex models his spirit was literary. “The only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play,” he wrote, “is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.” There are some terrific examples in the article on how misjudgment, desperation and failure, combined with a dose of creativity, led to some huge successes. My favorite example, building a mill in East Pakistan to turn bamboo into paper, only to have the bamboo flower and die at the end of a 50 year cycle just as the plant was coming on-line. My second favorite, building the Hoosac tunnel in northwestern Massachusetts at significantly more cost and time, but which enabled the factories in that part of the state to ship their goods to expanding West.

While most of us are not using bamboo to make paper or drilling tunnels, we all have our own challenges. The lessons of Mr. Hirschman and “The Power of Failure” are good ones for us all to keep in mind.

Roger Frank
Director of Strategy
July 17, 2013

One comment on “The Gift of Doubt and the Power of Failure

  1. Keep this going please, great job!

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