Learn from mistakes | Baloise Fuck Up Night

Corinna Fröschke
December 8, 2017
Failure is reproducible. We can learn from the failure of others. So why do we so rarely tell each other about our defeats?

“It happens bilaterally,” says Beat Knechtli from Baloise Organisational Development. “At lunch, many colleagues talk about what they haven’t succeeded in doing, but in larger groups we’d prefer to keep these experiences to ourselves.”   He wants to work together with other employees to change this. They are set to host the first Fuck Up Night at Baloise. The staff restaurant is the chosen venue for the event, and not by chance.

Nobody is successfull all the time

Yes, the title is an indecent one and none of the 15 people scattered around at the beginning of the event really knows what to do at the Fuck Up Night. But that will change in the next two hours. The event is an experiment. “If it goes wrong, that’s fine, then we’ll talk about it and improve on it,” Beat says to his audience. That’s the theme this evening: learning from the mistakes of others. “I’ve made more than enough mistakes to share,” laughs Sonja Hof from the Baloise IT department. She was another proponent of this idea. “Constant success is an illusion. Anyone who claims that lacks self-perception. That applies to both people and companies. Perfection comes from a series of failed attempts.”

Logic and structure of the Fuck Up Night

Each of the event’s narrators are given eight minutes to tell their story. The point is to describe the failure, to recognize your own role in it and to grow from this. After each story there is an opportunity to ask questions. The three experiences we will hear at the first Baloise Fuck Up Night are very different because they are very personal. With an audience of about 40 people the restaurant will be well filled.

The idea for this event comes from Mexico.

Four businessmen who were friends shared their failures over a beer and took their experiences away with them. Fuck Up Nights have now become popular worldwide.

If it concerns you, then it affects others too

Probably the most intimate story was told by the third speaker this evening. Very self-ironic, very reflective, he describes a character who is very sure of himself and who he once was. A man who nonchalantly dared to lead a team of ten employees. Even when he failed, and when it occurred to him that he had failed, his self-confidence remained unaffected. He had ambitions of leading more than 40 people.

His judgement came promptly and with it a mid-life-crisis

…that spilled into his private life and into his marriage. When the doubt and pain became too much, he decided to undergo therapy and describes his experience as a life education. That sounds quite like a catharsis, and it is after all. He was open to feedback, sought help and support, and was courageous enough to make a difference. Respect!

What should a Fuck Up Night achieve?

“We also want to confront our employees with uncomfortable issues,” says Beat. “  Baloise always calls itself an innovator, a visionary. Yes, please, then let action follow. By acknowledging that we fail, we create a new culture of error. Yes, we try to get ahead – but hey, defeats are part of the process. That’s fine.” Baloise Group CEO Gert De Winter is impressed by the very private experience that the third speaker has revealed about himself and he articulates it. It fits in with a credo that Gert gives every employee. “Don’t ask for permission, just forgive yourself if you failed.” This is the spirit through which a creative, innovative environment should grow in Baloise. Failures make us smarter.

What happens next?

The hope is that this Fuck Up Night will become a regular event. Everyone who has a story to tell and who is willing to do so will hopefully take the next opportunity. They can either create an event themselves or get in touch with our Fuck Up pioneers. The main thing is to keep the idea alive. The city of Basel also hosts nights of great defeats. Anyone who is willing to fail and learn is welcome.