Improvement Science is about learning from when what actually happens is different to that which we expected to happen. Is this surprise a failure or is this a success? It depends on our perspective. If we always get what we expect then we could conclude that we have succeeded – yet we have neither learned anything nor improved. So have we failed to learn? In contrast, if we never get what we expected then we could conclude that we always fail – yet we do not report what we have learned and improved. Our expectation might be too high! So comparing outcome with expectation seems a poor way to measure our progress with learning and improvement.
When we try something new we should expect to be surprised – otherwise it would not be new. It is what we learn from that expected surprise that is of most value. Sometime life turns out better than we expected – what can we learn from those experiences and how can we ensure that outcome happens again – predictably? Sometimes life turns out worse than we expected – what can we learn from those experiences and how can we ensure that outcome does not happen again, predictably? So, yes it is OK for us to fail and to not get what we expected – first time. What is not OK is for us to fail to learn from the lesson and to make an avoidable mistake more than once or miss an opportunity for improvement more than once.