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The emotional interference means that we prematurely terminate in working memory the facts that preceded the emotional event.

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But these facts are the basis for learning why the project failed. For example, in focusing on the emotional events leading up to the failure, our mind keeps shifting to the day the project was terminated. We dwell on the announcement to employees, buyers, suppliers, neighbors; how bad everyone felt; the moment of 9 From the Library of Garrick Lee From Lemons to Lemonade handing over the office keys to the liquidator and leaving the parking lot for the last time. By focusing on these highly salient, emotional events, we do not allocate attention to information that would serve as important feedback for learning.

Squeeze Every Last Drop of Success Out of Your Mistakes

We all have limited pain more quickly. We enhance our learning when we manage our emotions and recover from our emotional pain more quickly. That is, we can manage our emotions to more quickly eliminate this source of interference in the learning process. We not only learn from failure the causes behind this specific event, but we learn and develop something special about ourselves. We also can personally grow from the experience. The process of mourning is painful and long and dangerous.


In this chapter, you explore personal strategies for managing the emotions of failure so that the process of mourning is less painful and shorter and, in the end, a valuable learning experi- Mourning is not ence. Mourning is not forgetting, but undoing. At the same time, it empowers you to process information about the failure to learn 13 From the Library of Garrick Lee From Lemons to Lemonade from the experience. The processing of mourning can even lead to a gain.

It can make you stronger.

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It allows you to personally grow from the failure experience. Do we have such a negative emotional reaction to losing a small client—one who was costly to service with little upside potential? When it comes to feelings, not all failures are created equal. Before moving on to the strategies for managing emotions—so that mourning is less painful and shorter and leads to enhanced knowledge—you will explore why you feel worse over some failures than others.

This discussion about why you feel emotional pain demonstrates that it is not the weak who feel this way—quite the contrary. Emotions arise in those who had the courage to emotionally commit to a project, to those who put it all on the line and gave it a go. Project success depends on our commitment to it. The project begins with a creative idea, and we are more creative at projects to which we are passionately committed.

But even highly creative ideas face obstacles to success that require high levels of commitment to working through these challenges. These projects can fail.

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That is, they cease to exist. If the project was important, its loss due to failure generates a negative emotional reaction. The more important the project, the greater the reaction. Some projects satisfy these needs and make us feel good to a greater extent than others. The more a particular project satisfies a need, the better we feel—psychologically and physically.

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Therefore, the more a project satisfies our needs, the more important it is to us. Rather, it is highly subjective. What might be an important project to one person may be relatively unimportant to another. We feel bad when we lose something important to us. Figure 2. The greater the loss of satisfaction arising from the failure, the worse we feel. The three primary needs are the need for competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

Or, how important to you was the project that just failed? Take the survey shown in Table 2. Then take your score for the competence subscale and put an X in the first column of Figure 2. Do the same for the autonomy and relatedness subscales. If your X is in the white section of the column, you are high on this dimension. If it is in the light gray section, you are medium. If it is in the dark gray, you score low on this dimension. The more important a project is to you, the more you make the sorts of investments that increase its chances of success.

But if it fails, you feel worse. The more important the project, the greater the opportunity to learn, but also the greater the emotional obstacles to learning from the experience.

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A medium score light gray means that the project is was of moderate importance to you. You feel somewhat bad if when the project fails failed. A low score dark gray means that the project is was of low importance to you. There are few obstacles to your learning from the failure so long as the learning task captures sufficient attention. If you had a medium score 7 to 13; light gray , the project somewhat satisfies your psychological need for competence. If you had a low score 0 to 6; dark gray , the project does little to satisfy your psychological need for competence.

A project satisfies your need for competence when by working on the project you receive feedback related to your skills, knowledge, and experience. The need for competence is satisfied if that feedback is positive. Positive feedback signals that your performance on project tasks is highly effective. This makes you feel satisfied. For example, Mike is highly effective.

From Lemons to Lemonade: Squeeze Every Last Drop of Success Out of Your Mistakes

They provide him considerable positive feedback, which makes him feel good. On larger projects, Mike enjoys working with Denis and Larry, who are often critical of him for being slow and overly detailed on initial tests of an idea. He feels good about this feedback because he can work on speeding up his process and thereby enhance his research abilities.

Projects that satisfy a need for competence can take many different forms. In such instances, they build feelings of mastery of the task. They also develop a belief in their ability to successfully complete subsequent project tasks; that is, they build their self-belief related to the project. Most projects involve teams. A team can have a culture that helps satisfy your need for competence. For example, project teams that have a culture of constructive competition with others in the team or with other teams in the organization can promote feedback.

For example, two teams are developing a new video game in which the player feels as if he or she is riding a surfboard. In the case where a focus group indicates that team Alpha is superior to team Bravo in all dimensions, team Alpha receives positive feedback that satisfies its need for competence. The team feels good about the competition and the feedback because it has improved its competence at game building.

The benefits of this collective belief are similar to those of self-belief. Collective belief is highly valued by its members because it helps satisfy their needs for competence. Failure is often interpreted as negative feedback thwarting the need for competence. A failed project no longer provides the opportunity to develop your knowledge, skills, and abilities.