Over the years, many successful people have been talking about the benefits of “failing forward.” In fact, “failing forward” has become a standard business term. It means that people and the organizations they serve can only succeed by making a series of mistakes, and then learning from each of them.
This concept only makes sense. But then someone like Erin Diehl comes along and elevates the whole idea of failing forward to an entirely new level. She us founder of ImproveIt!, a company that conducts workshops that help people and organizations “get comfortable with the uncomfortable.” In a recent Training Unleashed Podcast with host Evan Hackel, the dynamic Erin discussed the profound life lessons she learned about failure by performing improv.
That’s right . . . improv! Be sure to watch this life-transforming podcast.
Here are some excerpts of the conversation between Evan and Erin.
Evan: I see you are sitting in front of a sign that says “Fail Yeah!” Can you tell me about that?
Erin: “Fail Yeah” is the name of a podcast that I host. The words “Fail Yeah” are based in the improvisational comedy world.
There is a rule in improv comedy. There are no mistakes, only gifts! So anything that happens on stage is not a mistake. It becomes a part of the scene. And that is such a metaphor for life, the things that happen to us, the failures that we have along the way, whether they happen in entrepreneurship, in corporate America, in our parenting and day-to-day lives.
Failures are actually supposed to be a part of our scene of life. You have to fail in order to improve . . . if you’re not failing, you’re not trying. And if you’re not trying, you’re not improving.
Evan: I have a saying for myself which is. “I hope my biggest failure is yet to come, because if it’s not, it means I’ve given up trying.”
Erin: That’s it! I love it! I love it!
Evan: I truly believe it. And you know, as training professionals, I think a lot of what we do is cutting edge, leading edge. There’s so much happening in the world of training that there are going to be stumbles. And that’s OK, as long as we learn. Someone famous once said, “We learn more from our failures than we learn from our successes.”
Erin: One hundred percent! And I truly believe in getting used to asking yourself the question, `What did I fail at today?’ And making that a normal thing that you say at the dinner table at the end of the day and making it something you journal about at night.
I love the idea of making failure a part of a company culture internally. My company does failure parties every quarter. We actually have one tomorrow. And instead of making a vision board for the quarter, we make a fail board of the quarter past . . . And it’s so refreshing because it allows our team to feel like we can make mistakes and it allows our team to feel human.
As I said to you before we hit record on this podcast, I’m a recovering perfectionist, turned influencer. I need to remind myself that failure is a part of the process. So it’s a big part of our culture. We’re really proud of it and of leaning into it every day.
Evan: It’s interesting that one of the major underlying root problems in business is people covering themselves. They’re not admitting their failures. They’re avoiding that difficult conversation that doesn’t allow the company to really understand what’s going on. Your failure meeting is a cool idea because it allows people the space to be able to admit they did something wrong.
Erin: That’s it! That is it Evan, and I truly believe in exactly what you said . . . Not allowing our full selves to be shown or almost covering ourselves. I have spent my entire career asking people in corporate America to take their masks off, which was hilarious because in year 2020 we were like, put your healthy mask on, be safe.
But what I feel really happened as a result of the pandemic was even though we were asked to protect ourselves in public, we actually started to see each other as humans because we were peering into each other’s homes and seeing families and pets and the day-to-day and that, I think, really strengthened the bond of a lot of teams and a lot of organizations. And it was a very eye-opening year, which we failed through miserably.
Back to the theme of failure, it felt like we were failing left and right. But we can take a step back and see some of the good that came from it. It’s so interesting to observe and to witness and to transform with, to be honest, so very cool.
Evan: I know you guys use a lot of improv in your work with companies. And maybe you could share why, because I think that’s a good thing to understand.
Erin: This is not an ad, this is an ask for everyone in America. Take an improv class, please! I’ll tell you why it’s such a beautiful, beautiful art form to teach.
Improv is the truest, most natural form of play. I call myself a professional pretender. I have a two-year-old son. He improvises all day long! We are all improvising all day long. But when we hear the word “improv,” it sometimes stifles our creativity and makes us think, oh my gosh, I have to think quickly on the spot. But when we can allow ourselves to truly play and to truly experience training at its finest in soft skill development, which is what we train on, we allow barriers to come down so that the masks that we’re talking about fall. And once that happens, that’s when we’re truly learning because we’re not judging ourselves. We’re not judging others in that moment. We’re in play!
So when we allow those barriers to fall, true learning occurs. That’s when we become our best selves and we grow both personally and professionally. It’s a magical teaching tool.
There’s much more to learn! Listen now.
A Special Free Offer
Erin invites members of the Training Unleashed family to take the Daily Five Challenge, a life-changing exercise offered by her company ImproveIt! CLICK HERE to enroll at no cost . . . and start transforming your life now.
About Our Guest
Erin Diehl is a graduate of Clemson University and former experiential marketing and recruiting professional as well as a veteran improviser from the top improvisational training programs in Chicago, including The Second City, i.O. Theater and The Annoyance Theatre. Erin conducts workshops across the country leveraging improvisational techniques to improve employees’ skills in corporate settings.
Her work with clients such as United Airlines, PepsiCo, Groupon, Deloitte, Motorola, Lowe’s, Accenture, Walgreens, and The Obama Foundation earned her the 2014 Chicago RedEye Big Idea Award and has nominated her for the 2015-2019 Chicago Innovations Award. Erin was a speaker for Disrupt HR Chicago, hosted the 2016 RedEye Big Idea Awards and has been a speaker for HRMAC Chicago, SHRM Chicago, Disrupt HR, the Business Marketing Association, and Emerging Leaders of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. She is also a proud member of The Chicago Innovation Awards Women’s Cohort and graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program.
Among her many accolades, Erin is most proud of successfully coercing over 12,000 professionals to chicken dance.