Sunday, March 31, 2013

Learning and Developing from Crucible Events


Obviously nobody intentionally fails but when we do, failure presents opportunity, and an opportunity is only as valuable as one is willing to make it.

A crucible is, by definition, a transformative experience through which an individual comes to a new or an altered sense of identity. ( Crucibles of Leadership, by Warren G. Bennis and Robert J. Thomas, September 2002 http://hbr.org/2002/09/crucibles-of-leadership/ar/2 ) If failure is viewed as a crucible moment, then how do we react to the opportunity failure presents?

I work in the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at West Point and we used the diagram below in the class. When people have Crucible moments they can stay down and spin out of control or choose to develop and come out the other side better off than before they went through the Crucible event.



Identity is learning. When someone fails at something and then tries again and succeeds; OR has a bad experience but recovers and keeps going, reflection on the Crucible experience shows a person where they were (in the experience) and the learning journey from that experience to the point where they currently are. They see identity shift and how they developed and grew. Referencing the diagram above, they are on the other side, on the high ground, better off than they were before.

Bill George writes about turning success into failure in  “TrueNorth”. Here is an excerpt  “ I’m suspicious of somebody who’s never failed, because you don’t know how they are going to react when they do. Everyone is born to fail. Everyone is going to break down. What matters is not how often you have been on the canvas, but whether you get up, how you get up, and what you learn from it.” 


They key to getting through a Crucible experience is to keep a positive attitude, take a step back, see the opportunity to grow and develop and exploit it. Stay FIRED UP!!!

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