Fostering the culture of learning at VTT Gala of Failures 2021

News, People stories

While trying to solve the world’s biggest challenges with science and technology, minor setbacks are inevitable. Instead of giving in, we gather our people annually together to share our best fails, celebrate them and laugh.

At VTT, we foster a culture of encouragement, trust and knowledge sharing. Our VTT Gala of Failures, organised by the VTT Young Professionals network for the third time 21 January 2021, is a prime example of that.

“Our work at VTT is all about doing things that nobody has done before. Fear is one of the biggest enemies of creativity, and we want to encourage people to experiment and try new things without fear of failure. And when failure inevitably happens, we can look at the human side of things and talk openly about it. Hopefully that leads to learning as well”, comments Antti Vasara, CEO of VTT.

What would help us grow better than learning from mistakes? Of course, the fact that those mistakes and lessons are shared together! 

“Without this event we would never share these cases so widely across the organisation. We have had so much fun while enhancing the culture of being brave to fail, share and learn”, praises Kirsi Nuotto, SVP Human Resources. 

Tips from the start-ups

This year we heard that setting the right priorities, stopping for a moment and just listening can be challenging for researchers and management alike. We also learned that mistakes happen in a rush and can ruin your first impression – especially if you set a wrong background picture in Teams.

Do start-up owners and business angels fail in a same way than VTTers? We got a different perspective to failing when start-up entrepreneurs shared insights from the early days of their business. Here five key learnings:

  • Be absolutely clear when you give guidance or briefs
  • People are your most valuable asset, but right location and fit for team and task are even more crucial
  • Don’t outsource essential processes, e.g. product-market fit is created within your own team (and with the customer), not by consultants
  • Don’t spend time in internal meetings
  • Never underestimate the importance of situational analysis and take corrective actions quickly.

What could go wrong when you are away for just 15 minutes?

This year’s presentations took us from already traditional mispronunciations and misspellings to importance of team effort. Not forgetting the fact that even drones can go wild! It is also relieving to know that other people don’t always recognise your small mistakes – or mispronunciations. You don’t need to do everything by yourself either, because you have colleagues to help you with tricky questions. 

By now, it is also time to forget the idea that nothing major ever happens, if you are away for only 15 minutes grabbing a cup of coffee. Especially, when you work at a landfill and don’t mark your measurement site. Because when you leave the site unattended, you might not find it in a same condition than you left it. Truckloads of trash on top of a measurement site took the first prize of our gala this year! 

“Thankfully there was also some luck with us! Our measurement computer somehow survived the trash attack, because it was stored in a trash container. So, the data could be utilised, once we found it”, laughs the winner of the Gala of Failures 2021, Senior Scientist, Marko Savolainen.

While the gala is organized only once a year, learning from failures is a mindset worth keeping.

“The Gala of Failures is an event to promote our failures and to remind us that it’s okay to make mistakes, but what matters most is how we choose to learn from them. I want to thank all presenters who overcame their fear and presented impressive stories also this year”, sums up Nicolaas van Strien, Research Engineer and the Chairman of VTT Young Professionals. 

Nicolaas van Strien
Nicolaas van Strien
Research Scientist
Jennifer Carreiro Spencer
Jennifer Carreiro Spencer
Research Scientist