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Failure: A lesson in disguise, says forum speaker

  • Communications
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  • Mar 26, 2014
Failure: A lesson in disguise, says forum speaker

Student participating in the Fail Forward Workshop at fifth annual Social Innovation @ Ivey Forum

Social innovation means realizing your impact, learning to fail, and playing with passion, according to Canada’s top social innovators, speaking at the fifth annual Social Innovation @ Ivey Forum.

Organized by Professor Oana Branzei, this year’s conference hosted more than 30 speakers and workshop leaders across sectors and generations. The event featured three keynote speakers, three interactive workshops, plus a panel discussion and networking session. Each presentation analyzed different ways – mainly through focusing on social impact, learning from failure, and integrating a sense of play – to be innovative in one’s work.

Here are the highlights of the day’s events:

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Ashley Good has experienced enough failure to build a business around it.

The founder of FailForward has spent the past three years working with a range of organizations to teach them how to use failure as a learning tool and innovation driver. Personally, Good admits to tracking her own failures in a journal so she can reflect on how to change her approach in the future. 

Good said that society needs to change the way it looks at failure, explaining that we’re trained to think things are either a success or a failure, when really the situation is not that black or white.

“We have to challenge our perceptions and look at failure as learning,” she said.


“It’s amazing how much learning is accelerated when we push ourselves to the edge of our capacity.”


Andrew Steele, EMBA ’11, and VP Strategy for TVO, opened up the day speaking on social impact. Steele explained that anything you invest in, whether products, services, or charitable donations, is because of the impact it will have on your personal and professional career. Whether a charity or a corporation, all organizations appeal to your emotional sense of impact in similar ways, Steele said.

From a career perspective, looking for the long-term benefit of your investment is essential, he noted.


“When you are starting your career, ask about impact. Then, grow the hell out of that impact.”


Alumna Kelsey Ramsden, MBA ’04, wrapped up the conference with her closing keynote on combining work with play.

Named Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneur by Profit magazine for the last two years, Ramsden said that she has always ‘gamed her life’ and integrated playfulness into her work. To put it in business terms, the MBA graduate joked that her personal KSF (Key Success Factor) was play.

“Einstein said ‘imagination is greater than knowledge,’ and I believe that wholeheartedly,” said Ramsden.

Her top career takeaways included that ability to:

  • Listen, not just with your ears, to every single person in your organization. Sensing what they might not be saying could indicate real problems and opportunities in your business.
  • Know thy enemy and love them: Think of your competitors like a free research & development department. See what they’re trying, look for what works and what doesn’t.
  • Be exposed to things outside your comfort zone in order to rise to the top in your field.


“How small our thinking can be when it’s limited by what others tell us.”

Social Innovation Ivey 05032014_146Attendees. students, and faculty at Fail Forward workshop, led by Steve Cordes from Youth Opportunity Unlimited.