It was an ordinary sort of day. I was running some errands and I needed to fill up my car’s gas tank. So I pulled up to one of those self-serve pumps and as I was putting in the gas that’s when I noticed it.
It was fairly obvious as to what it was but what it really did wasn’t so obvious. The tag on it explained most of it but the real story was much more involved.
The real reason why that button was there was because of a failure.
That button is no doubt hooked up to the power that switches off the pump – anyone can see that. But how did it get there in the first place?
Someone experienced a system failure that’s how.
At some point in the past someone somewhere had a need to suddenly stop the flow of fuel from the pump to their car. The pump’s trigger wasn’t enough because the gas kept on coming causing a potentially dangerous situation.
A Good Thing When We See It
System failures occur all the time. Ever had a flat tire? System failure. Ever get a cold? System failure.
All systems evolve to become safer, more usable, and better for us because something went wrong and was fixed so that the chances of it happening again are slim to none.
In the human body we know it as the immune system. Provided it’s maintained in health it runs on auto-pilot. It takes care of all those buggy little invaders 24/7 without much intervention from us.
But in most man-made systems it takes a failure for us to notice the deficiency and to spark a shot of immunity.
With that flat tire, for example, the fix was to eliminate the tube. That way a small puncture my not cause that much air loss and you can drive to where you can get permanent help for it. I’ve had a nail in mine for the past week and it hasn’t lost anything. But, if you need something more, there’s also a gooey black product that comes in a pressurized can. You simply inject into the tire and that inflates and seals it at the same time. At least you don’t get stuck on the roadside.
You get the picture.
Immunity happens because something was either weak, broken, or not thought of yet.
I’ll bet dollars to donuts that in your business you work to make things run better all the time. That efficiency leads to higher profits. Every time you spot a weakness – and fix it – the system gains more immunity.
So I say “hooray for failure!”. If it wasn’t for failure we’d be back in the Dark Ages. If everything went perfectly all the time we might have some success but could we teach it to anyone else?
I don’t think so. Real success feeds upon the flesh of failure. Knowing what doesn’t work prevents the failure from ever happening again.
Some call that learning.
Ok, let’s spell it out loud together: “I-M-M-U-N-I-T-Y”.
Right on the button!
PS: Cool video from Honda about failures they’ve had.