Failing forward

Social media is abuzz with Jo Koy’s “failed” hosting of the Golden Globe Awards. But we know that he will rise from this tough situation. But he remains resilient.  ‘I’m not going to let this bring me down’, he said in an interview on KTLA 5 Morning News, referring to the backlash over a joke about Taylor Swift. He acknowledged the hurtful comments but also highlighted the positive aspects of hosting the prestigious event for his career and Filipino heritage.


Setbacks and failures like this are a part of life. They are threads that weave an essential narrative of growth and triumph in the tapestry of life and business. The concept of “failing forward” encapsulates the idea that failures are not dead ends but rather stepping stones toward progress. While often viewed negatively, failures provide valuable lessons, foster resilience, and drive innovation.

In life, failures serve as profound learning experiences, prompting individuals to reassess their approaches and cultivate resilience. A prime example can be found in the story of Thomas Edison, whose several attempts to invent the electric light bulb were met with failures. Instead of viewing each setback as a defeat, Edison famously remarked, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This change in mindset underscores the importance of embracing failures as stepping stones toward success.


Moreover, failures in personal relationships contribute to emotional intelligence and interpersonal growth. Failed relationships, whether friendships or romantic partnerships, prompt self-reflection and encourage individuals to understand their needs, boundaries, and communication styles. The ability to navigate through the complexities of human connections is often honed through experiencing and learning from failures in these relationships.

In the realm of business, failures are not only common but often necessary for innovation and progress. The technology giant Apple, for instance, faced a significant setback with the introduction of the Newton MessagePad in 1993. Despite high expectations, the product failed in the market due to technical limitations and high pricing. However, Apple’s response to this failure was instrumental in shaping its future success. The lessons learned from the Newton’s shortcomings guided the company towards developing revolutionary products like the iPhone and iPad.


Moreover, embracing failure in business fosters a culture of experimentation and risk-taking. Companies like Google encourage employees to pursue innovative projects, even if they have a high risk of failure. Google’s initiative, known as “20% time,” allows employees to dedicate a portion of their work hours to personal projects. This approach has led to the creation of successful products such as Gmail and Google News. By acknowledging and accepting the possibility of failure, organizations can stimulate creativity and push the boundaries of what is possible.

In entrepreneurship, the path to success is often paved with failures. Many successful entrepreneurs have faced setbacks before achieving their goals. Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, encountered numerous challenges on his entrepreneurial journey. SpaceX faced three consecutive failures in its attempts to launch rockets, putting the company on the brink of bankruptcy. Musk’s resilience and determination, however, led to subsequent successes, making SpaceX a pioneer in the space industry.


Failures also play a crucial role in fostering adaptability in the face of dynamic challenges. In the business world, companies that fail to adapt to changing market trends risk obsolescence. Kodak, once a photography industry giant, failed to embrace the shift to digital photography, ultimately leading to its downfall. Kodak’s reluctance to innovate and adapt serves as a cautionary tale, emphasizing the importance of learning from failures and staying attuned to evolving landscapes.

Furthermore, failures contribute to the development of a growth mindset, a concept popularized by psychologist Carol Dweck. Individuals and organizations with a growth mindset perceive challenges and failures as opportunities for learning and improvement. This mindset fuels a continuous pursuit of excellence and a willingness to confront and overcome obstacles. Companies like Microsoft exemplify this approach, as they learned from the shortcomings of products like Windows Vista to innovate and improve subsequent versions.


In conclusion, failures are not merely setbacks but essential components of both life and business. They provide invaluable lessons, foster resilience, drive innovation, and contribute to personal and professional development. Embracing failures with a growth mindset allows individuals and organizations to learn, adapt, and achieve success.

Indeed, there is something to be learned from Jo Koy’s setback – it’s failing forward. He is gearing up for a worldwide stand-up tour, and plans to address the controversy in his comedy routine, encouraging a more light-hearted view on humor.

The author is the Founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital, culture, and customer experience transformation consulting firm. He is a Fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He is the Chair of the Digital Transformation IT Governance Committee of FINEX Academy. He teaches strategic management and digital transformation in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at