The Power of Persistence: Mapping attitudes to adversity in the U.K. regions
In this Wealth Insights report we have examined global perceptions of setbacks and responses to adversity across entrepreneurial, business and investment endeavours. This chapter focuses on the U.K., taking a closer look at the regional trends in attitudes and reactions to failure.
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As we have seen in this report, there is a common perception that viewing failure positively and the ability to learn from setbacks is essential for the growth of an economy. To some extent, the U.K. presents a microcosm of this trend. However, there are certain distinctions across the different regions of the U.K. in how high net worth individuals embrace and respond to adversity.
What emerges from the findings is an apparent north/south divide when it comes to resilience and determination, with respondents in London, the South
East and the South West displaying markedly less persistence in the face of adversity than those in the north of England and in Scotland. The degree of regional variation in their attitudes to adversity is striking, and is analysed in detail in the following section.
Judge not lest ye be judged?
High net worth individuals in the capital show themselves to have a relatively negative perception of failure when it comes to how they view others, while still viewing failure as something to learn from. Just a third (33%) of London respondents agree that entrepreneurs who fail initially should persist in their endeavours. This compares to almost half of respondents (49%) in the
North East and 44% in Scotland, where prevailing attitudes in the face of adversity are given greater value. In addition, there is a reluctance to trust the abilities of those who have previously failed in business ventures or in investments: over half of London-based respondents (54%) feel that past failure will go on to count against people in their career progression, and almost a third
(32%) of people in London agree that they judge people who fail in their career or business negatively — ranking the third highest among any U.K. region (after Scotland and the South East).
Conversely, London has the highest percentage of respondents in any U.K. region (73%) who agree that they have learnt a great deal from failure in their career or business. Meanwhile, nearly a third (31%) of high net worth Londoners who have experienced failure in the past, say that this failure in their career or business has encouraged them to try again, the highest of any U.K. region. This suggests that while there may be a reluctance to put faith in others who fail, respondents from the capital rate their own experiences of adversity as potentially valuable which, far from precluding the possibility of regrouping and making another attempt in business or investment, can actually persuade them to try again.
Wary of failure but willing to give second chances
Support for the concept of failure as an essential part of the wider business and entrepreneurial process appears more muted in the South East than in other U.K. regions. The proportion of respondents who agree that viewing failure positively is essential for growth is the lowest in the country, at 60% (the national average is 69%).
High net worth individuals in the South East are also less likely than other U.K. regions to say they bounced back very quickly from a past failure. Whilst 78% said that they would find a new goal to pursue if they failed in their current undertaking, this is in comparison to 86% in the North West and 83% in the North East.
In addition, respondents from the South East judge people who fail negatively to a greater extent than most other regions. Over a third (35%) said they judge people who fail negatively, compared to just 22% in the North East and 26% in the South West and Wales.
However, in terms of business decisions, the South East has the highest actual tolerance of failure of any region in the U.K.; with nearly half (48%) saying they would hire an individual who has experienced entrepreneurial failure. In the South West and Wales, the contrast is stark, with less than a quarter (24%) agreeing with this statement. Furthermore, 30% of respondents in the South East said experiencing failure encourages them to try again. The same is not true across the U.K. — in the Midlands the figure is just 18%.
North East and Yorkshire
When viewed alongside the South East and London, the story in the North East is rather different. High net worth individuals in this region are the most persistent in the U.K. when it comes to adversity in business ventures, with almost half (49%) agreeing that entrepreneurs who experience failure should persist. People in the North East also find it difficult to ‘let go’, with more respondents (65%) in this region than any other agreeing that they find it hard to stop striving for a goal that they are attempting to reach.
Given this determined nature, it is perhaps unsurprising that respondents in the North East showed themselves to be more tolerant of failure than in any other U.K. region, with less than a quarter (22%) saying that they judge people who fail negatively. And whilst high net worth individuals in the North East are divided on the impact of failure in business, with half feeling that failure will count against an individual later on, there does appear to be an acceptance in the North East of the merits of failure. Nearly eight in ten (78%) of those questioned in the region believe that viewing failure positively is essential for economic growth.
Cautious amid challenges
Attitudes to failure in the Midlands differ somewhat to those of other regions. Less than a third (32%) of high net worth individuals in the Midlands agree that entrepreneurs who initially fail should persist. This is slightly lower than the national average of 35%, and as we have seen, compares to almost half (49%) in the North East. Furthermore, fewer respondents in the Midlands (18%) said that past failures in their career and business encouraged them to try again than in any other U.K. region. This compares to 31% in London and 29% in the South East.
However, there is an acceptance in the Midlands that viewing failure positively is essential to economic growth – at 73% the figure is slightly higher than the national average. Yet, while just 27% of respondents in the Midlands admit that they judge past failure negatively in others, the application of these attitudes can be somewhat different, with only 38% of respondents saying that they would take on someone who had tried and failed to start their own business — this is compared to a national average of 42%.
Hard lessons from adversity
The views of high net worth individuals in the North West on failure tend to fall fairly close to the national average. As in many other regions, there is limited appetite for persistence in the face of business failure: just over a third (36%) of people questioned in the region said that they think entrepreneurs who fail should persist.
In terms of their reactions to failure in others, respondents in the North West showed themselves to be relatively tolerant. Over two-fifths (41%) of respondents said that they would agree to hire a failed entrepreneur, in comparison to less than a quarter (24%) in the South West, and only 27% said that they judge those who have failed negatively.
When it comes to viewing failure as part of a wider picture, almost three quarters (71%) of North West respondents feel that a positive attitude to failure is essential to wider economic growth — the closest region to the U.K. average.
However, in terms of lessons learnt from failure, just under half (47%) of respondents in the North West agree that they have learnt a great deal from failure. Exactly half of the high net worth Individuals in the North West said that they believe failure impacts negatively on future career prospects — in line with the overall U.K. figure of 51%.
South West & Wales
High tolerance of failure in theory, but low in practice
Along with the South East, the South West and Wales is the region with the joint lowest persistence in the U.K., with just 30% of respondents agreeing that entrepreneurs should persist in the event of failure. This is in comparison to almost half (49%) in the North East.
The South West and Wales also has the lowest tolerance of failure of any U.K. region, with less than a quarter (24%) of people questioned agreeing that they would hire an entrepreneur who had previously failed. This is in comparison to just under half (47%) in the North East and 46% in London. The notion that a positive view of failure helps foster wider growth is less ingrained in this region than elsewhere, with just 62% supporting this view — well below the national average of 70%.
However, in other ways the South West and Wales appear to hold relatively accepting attitudes towards those who fail. Just over a quarter of respondents
(26%) said that they would judge someone who had failed negatively, in comparison to 35% in the South East and 38% in London. Also, under half (48%) of those questioned in the South West and Wales feel that failure counts against individuals in their career progression, which is the lowest of any U.K. region.
Conversely, high net worth individuals in the South West and Wales also find it difficult to give up pursuing their goals, with 59% saying they struggle to stop trying to achieve goals when they come up against challenges. This is the second highest of any U.K. region, suggesting that levels of motivation and persistence in the region are particularly strong.
The long term view
Scotland has the second-highest levels of persistence of any U.K. region, with almost half (44%) of respondents agreeing that entrepreneurs should persist through adversity. This is in comparison to less than a third (33%) in London and just 30% in the South East and the South West and Wales.
Respondents from Scotland appear to have a tendency to view failure as part of a bigger picture. Scotland is the region with the highest proportion of respondents who believe that viewing failure positively is essential to fuelling economic growth. In addition, over half (55%) say that they have learnt a great deal from past failures — only London-based respondents (56%) fare better in terms of learning from these trying experiences.
By contrast, however, there is a low tolerance for the failure of others in Scotland, with less than two in five respondents agreeing that they would hire an entrepreneur who had previously failed. Only the South West and Wales (24%) has a lower tolerance for failure. Furthermore, a greater number of Scottish respondents (56%) think failure counts against people in their career progression than in any other area of the U.K.
In addition, respondents in Scotland were more judgmental of people who fail than in any other region. Almost two in five said that they judge people who fail negatively. By comparison, less than a quarter (22%) of respondents in the North East and just 26% in the South West region of England agree with this.