By Cyd Weissman

“Fail Forward” is the mantra of entrepreneurs. Take risks. You will fail, guaranteed. Learn from it.  Once a little smarter, boldly launch again. Instead of meeting failure with crimson shame and pink slips, entrepreneurs believe, as Robert Kennedy did, “to achieve greatness, you have to fail greatly.”

David Bryfman, Chief Innovation Officer at The Jewish Education Project, introduced the concept of “fail forward” at a Jewish Futures Conference in New York City.

“I’m quite proud the community has embraced the idea. I hear the phrase ‘fail forward’ repeated more than anything else I’ve put out there.” An innovation guru who keynotes from London to Jerusalem to Sydney, David confesses it is a lot easier to teach fail forward than to enact it.

David recounts his own journey of learning to fail forward. It takes time to embrace the idea “that you can both have high standards and recognize we are not going to get everything right.” David says, “I try to let people I work with know that we are all in this together. If they fail, we all fail.” To ensure his team feels safe enough to take risks, including the risk of failure, David applies lessons he learned from a very unexpected teacher—a funder.

The Jim Joseph Foundation, a national grant maker committed to fostering compelling, effective Jewish learning experiences for young Jews, has been David’s mentor in learning to fail forward. As Foundation professionals work with him to reshape teen engagement, David notes, they consistently model this best practice of failing forward. David strives to replicate lessons learned from the Foundation with his own team.

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