We don’t lose. We win, or we learn

I first heard ‘We don’t lose. We win or we learn’ when I was facilitating a workshop on the responsibilities of team leaders, and I absolutely loved it.

It resonated so heavily with me, that I wanted to write a post on it.

“We don’t lose; we win or we learn”. Just say it aloud. How lovely is that?

It’s one of those sayings that can instantly change the way you view your day to day job and helps you find creative possibilities in the work you do.

The only thing is, how do we do that? It’s fine to say, but how does that relate to people on day to day basis; what does it look like and how can we make it real?  Here are my thoughts on how you go about doing that.


You have to let your team members know that you trust them. Without trust, when you say to them, “we don’t lose; we win or learn” they won’t believe you. If they trust you, they’ll trust that you’ll appreciate them taking risks.

How do you do this?

  • Let people manage their own time. People know what they have to get done in the day/week/ whenever the project deadline is due. By all means, check-in, but take a back seat and let them find their way.

  • Ask for feedback. Let people know when you ask them to try something new that they should feedback about their experience.

  • Take the rough with the smooth. It’s great when your ideas work out, but when they don’t you have to remain positive and be the first to work out the learning moments from the loss.


Build a culture that encourages people to try new things, let your team know that you do not work in a punitive environment (if you do work in a punitive environment then this post isn’t for you) and they will be rewarded for being inventive and suggesting new ways to work.

I’ll leave you to work out what would motivate your colleagues. The takeaway here is that before your team can implement new ways of working, they need the ideas first.

If you’re struggling to get people involved, then lead the way, say to everyone, today I’m trying ‘this’ (whatever the ‘this’ is) new way of working. Let people see/hear you, be loud and be accountable. You’ll gain more followers banging your drum and failing than you will if you don’t bang your drum at all.


How do you celebrate failure? It seems counterintuitive, to celebrate failure or loss (that’s why we don’t fail, we learn). Here are some ideas on how you can celebrate:

  • Encourage people to try ideas; especially if your experience is telling you it won’t work. If your experience is telling you it won’t work, you’ll probably learn more than the person experimenting.

  • Whatever counts as traditional in your office, try the opposite, and reward people for trying to work counter traditionally.

  • Define success measures before implementation. This is crucial, because if the experiment is a success, then, hooray, you’ve got a success that can be scaled out over the business. If the experiment fails, then you have a set of criteria that you can analyse, so that you can make an informed next step (the learning), towards a win.

  • Celebrate the next steps – thank people for taking the first step and then encourage them to take the next step.


“What, share my failures with everyone? Really?”

Yes, really. What’s the upside? It stops a lot of other people from going through the same process only to find the same result. It also means that people can offer advice on the next steps and help refine a process. Spotify has a failure wall so that everyone in the organisation can see what ideas have been tried, the approach, and the results. You could also try introducing ‘What have you failed at this week” in weekly meetings with your teams. Encourage your team to share their experiences. This will rely on people coming out of their comfort zones, which is why trust is so important before you start experimenting.

As a tip; if you want to get people on board with this then you’re going to have to be the first one to say “Yep, I f*cked up – what can we learn from this?”

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