The Edge of Failure is a Magical Place is an excellent, vulnerable story about a great idea that didn’t develop as planned & hoped.

Failure is an important place to enter within education. Failure is when you’ve pushed your learning just past what was possible. It announces that you’ve gone all the way to edge of where you currently are capable and had the guts to take that extra step and see where your food landed.

In MYP Design, we talk a lot about the Design Cycle. We focus on this “cycle” as it is intended to be repeated, each cycle building on the evaluation and lessons learned from the end of the previous cycle.

This is best achieved when the Creation area of the cycle is pushed as far as it can be. The creation should have elements that fail. If not the cycle ends at the final evaluation.

A favorite quote of mine – “I’ve never finished a film” – Martin Scorcese. MARTIN SCORCESE claims to have never finished a film! There sits the secret – no project is ever finished. There is always room for improvement and failure should be embraced as a successful way of displaying that a project has been pushed beyond its limits.

There is always something more to do, more to improve on, more we should have thought of in the planning. A stronger solution to have planned for and a better creation because of it all. In an ideal world, we would have forever to refine these bits a little at a time, taking the smallest risks in each cycle as we improve our design cycle. However, every project has a deadline, a consumer, a need – a project must be finished at a certain time wither we are done with it or not. If we are doing it right, we have an acceptable product for our evaluator but an unacceptable product for ourselves.

I love failure because that’s where the real lessons are. That’s where the learning is. That’s where the magic happens! The edge of where something no longer works is where the first combustion engine came to life, the first iPod booted. A million failures are happening in Virtual and Augmented Reality developments right now – grinding away to again change the world.

I’m glad Trevor Muir’s class failed too. Who we are and how we learn is not defined by if we fall, but what we observed about our projects, our classes, and ourselves right at the moment of failure. Learning from this as we get up again to inevitably fail another inch further than last time is what defines all of us as the educated and the educators.

3 Replies to “The Edge of Failure is a Magical Place”

  1. Pingback: How do you feel when you miss a bean? | Cate Jarvis

  2. nickihambleton

    Hi Clint,
    I too adored the story of Trevor’s class and how he turned it around for them. I totally agree with you about the cyclical nature of designing and loved the quote from Scorcese. I prefer to use the word failing rather than failure, as failure denotes more of a permanence rather than a temporary state. I hadn’t thought of this before my summer reading Empower and I have tried to change to this word when listening and talking to students, correcting and explaining it to them. As a designer myself I often need to create those awful designs first to pave the way for the great ones and often we may not see them as part of the process until we accept them as failings and move forward. I shall keep embracing my failings however bad they seem at the time because, as you say, they are part of the inevitable stages in development and lead to richer leaning. Thanks for such a great post.

  3. joe teft

    I love the design cycle too, we used it with our grade 1 – 3 classes last year. It was a great way of stopping the idea that work can be finished. For us the design cycle also highlights the importance of empathy for the designer, it just really helps build so many critical thinking skills. I love it.

    I agree with failure too, and the importance of hitting a deadline. It’s important for us to realize that why we might not finish like Scorsese we still need to hit a deadline.

    Thanks for the thoughts.


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