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Module Specifications..

Current Academic Year 2023 - 2024

Please note that this information is subject to change.

Module Title Failure
Module Code SB205
School DCUBS
Module Co-ordinatorSemester 1: Gavin Brown
Semester 2: Gavin Brown
Autumn: Gavin Brown
Module TeachersGavin Brown
Cliona McParland
NFQ level 8 Credit Rating 5
Pre-requisite None
Co-requisite None
Compatibles None
Incompatibles None

There is a false belief that all failure is bad and that learning from failure is straightforward. In practice some failure is inevitable and some failures are even constructive. Importantly learning from failure is not simple as it requires resilience, psychological safety, and coping strategies which are frequently tied to context. Through the module students will not only have exposure to a spectrum of failures (preventable, unavoidable, inevitable) but importantly explore how such failures may be avoided, circumvented or leveraged. The module provides students with insights on the inevitability of uncertainty and failure and how the negative impact of failure can be cascaded by power, blame games, fear and toxic cultures within organisations. In appreciating such factors students are exposed to the significance of concepts such as psychological safety, resilience, coping strategies and mechanisms such as whistleblowing in efforts to circumvent or prevent failures on a mass scale. Students should leave this module with a greater awareness of the realities of various types of failure and an appreciation of ways in which an organisational culture can be fostered around safe recognition, reporting and admission of failure. In this way failure will become more normalized as an everyday experience.

Learning Outcomes

1. identify and understand the spectrum and contexts of failure
2. Identify and assess the biases, path dependencies and power dynamics that can give rise to, and perpetuate, failure
3. critically assess experiences of failure in order to derive key insights and lessons
4. appreciate the key institutional, cultural and individual factors required for the safe recognition, navigating, reporting and/or admission of failure

Workload Full-time hours per semester
Type Hours Description
Lecture12No Description
Workshop8No Description
Online activity5Forum engagement
Independent Study40No Description
Assignment Completion35No Description
Directed learning25No Description
Total Workload: 125

All module information is indicative and subject to change. For further information,students are advised to refer to the University's Marks and Standards and Programme Specific Regulations at: http://www.dcu.ie/registry/examinations/index.shtml

Indicative Content and Learning Activities

Introducing the F word
Understanding the occurrence, meaning and spectrum of failure including preventable, unavoidable, and inevitable failure.

Mechanisms of failure
Exploring the biases, path dependencies, power dynamics and trajectories that can lead to, and perpetuate, failure.

Theorizing failure
Students will gain insights on multiple theoretical lenses (systematic, organizational and human) used to explain and examine failure (e.g. complex adaptive systems, impression management, narcissism).

Contexts and Exemplars
The module will draw on illustrative exemplars from various levels of analysis e.g. institutional failures and corruption (Financial Crisis, Celtic Tiger) emergency management (Wild land firefighters, Covid 19, Hurricane Katrina), corporate scandals (Enron, BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill), sport (doping in cycling; corporate governance at UEFA), mega-projects (Nasa), as well exploring failed product development (Google Glass, Dyson electric cars) and cybersecurity dynamics (Facebook).

Purposeful failure
Students will be exposed to ideas around experimentation, lean-start-up as means of promoting purposeful and constructive failure.

Lessons and Insights from failure
Students will learn from concepts such as legitimacy and stigma, risk assessment, psychological safety, resilience, coping strategies, after-action reviews and mechanisms for voice and feedback (including whistleblowing) in efforts to predict, circumvent or prevent failures on a mass scale

Assessment Breakdown
Continuous Assessment100% Examination Weight0%
Course Work Breakdown
TypeDescription% of totalAssessment Date
Digital ProjectFailure visualisation and collage based on themes from module25%Week 4
ParticipationParticipation on forum discussion ( x 5 discussion points/reflections)15%n/a
ProjectCreation of exemplary failure case study including case study teaching notes, application, insights and lessons60%Week 10
Reassessment Requirement Type
Resit arrangements are explained by the following categories;
1 = A resit is available for all components of the module
2 = No resit is available for 100% continuous assessment module
3 = No resit is available for the continuous assessment component
This module is category 1
Indicative Reading List

  • Perrow, Charles: 1999, Normal accidents: Living with high risk technologies, 2nd, Princeton University Press,
  • Chiles, J.: 2002, Inviting Disaster: Lessons From the Edge of Technology, Harper Business,
Other Resources

44021, Podcast, Elizabeth Day, 2020, How to fail with Elizabeth day, https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/how-to-fail-with-elizabeth-day/id1407451189, 44022, Youtube, Bryant, Kobe, 0, Fear of failure, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=css0oV21m8c.,
Programme or List of Programmes
DBIBSc in Digital Business and Innovation

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