schöner scheitern

Ein Post aus meinem Promotionsprogramm. Er ist (zwar) auf englisch, beschreibt aber eine Erfahrung, die wir mit Kirche2 gemacht haben und stellt ein großartiges Buch vor, das ich nur wärmstens empfehlen kann:


Barcamps are highly participatory user-generated formats, where people meet to network, share and learn. Attendants of barcamps provide the content themselves. This participant-driven concept seeks to enable exchange on an eye-level.

My organization Kirche2 planned two barcamps for November. We thought of it as a further step for our project. After a big conference, we hosted this February with 1400 attendants, we now dreamt about a more regional and participatory format. So we started to search for locations, caterers and began to advertise it. We got good feedback online: People were excited, that the story of Kirche2 went on, saying that they like the ecumenical and regional concept and they would love to attend. But the number of registrations stayed under our expectations. So we started a campaign of advertising to attract more applications.


The number of attendants stayed low.

Two weeks before our first barcamp was about to take place, we had to cancel the events.

We were disappointed and frustrated. The first challenge was really to call the whole thing off, but the second (and a lot harder) challenge was, to communicate it.

Social media and an authentic and transparent communication have always been important to us. So we decided not to talk around it or to lie, by making up a lame excuse. We put our failing straight.

We wrote a post in our blog and linked it to all our social media channels (twitter, facebook etc.). In that post we started by citing the story of the tower builder in Luke 14: 29-30.

For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it,

everyone who sees it will ridicule you,

saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’


We acknowledged that we failed preparing stable foundations. We shared the reasons we assume to have led to our failing. We were transparent and authentic by making ourselves vulnerable and sharing our disappointment. We mentioned new visions and ideas. We concluded by asking for comments and ideas.

After posting this, we got a flood of responses. There was not one single negative one amongst them:

  • “Bummer! Too bad for you and us…”
  • “You did an awesome job planning…”
  • “Perhaps the date was difficult…”
  • “’I would love to help you out, if you’re trying again”

Those were positive responses on a relational level.

Then some also wrote suggestions, how to improve, what to do better and what they wish for the next events.

Those were thematically responses.

And then we also realized, that some commented and used the word “we” as a sign of tight identification. It was no longer Kirche2 on the one side and the attendants on the other, it was a “we”, that grew.


In our second blog post about it, we started of with Isaiah 43:19:

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?


We shared the impact the comments and mails had on us. The growing identification showed, how out of or failure something new emerged. Perhaps it would have never grown, without us failing and sharing our experience. It’s no invitation to failure, but it proofs how important and valuable it can be, to fail in a good way. We never gathered more traffic on our site and more comments than with these two blog posts.

This week I read Charlene Li’s “Open Leadership. How social technology can transform the way you lead” and it fits well, with our experiences. Charlene Li offers broad social media thoughts and links them with effects they have on leadership. She enfolds strategies that help to improve communications to positively influence leadership and the culture in organizations.

In chapter nine (“The failure imperative”) Li writes about unavoidable failure and about good experiences companies and organizations made.

She mentions examples of Google (Their motto: “Fail fast, fail smart.”) and Marc Zuckerbergs Communication strategy while trying to change the terms of service on Facebook.

Li derives four insights:

–       Acknowledge that failure happens.

–       Encourage dialog to foster trust.

–       Separate the person from failure

–       Learn from mistakes.

It was interesting to see, how our investment in “communicating the failure” in all four steps already paid off: for our project and for your leadership.

Why is it still so hard to be open and honest and communicate that way?



Schreibe einen Kommentar

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht. Erforderliche Felder sind mit * markiert.

15 + acht =

Diese Website verwendet Akismet, um Spam zu reduzieren. Erfahre mehr darüber, wie deine Kommentardaten verarbeitet werden.