How often do you hear platitudes about failing fast, failing forward, celebrating failure, embracing failure, feeling free to fail?
Well I’m here to say—f*&k that.
I’m here to say failing is not good, whether it’s done fast, forward, or by high fiving each other in an end of year celebration.
If you are a Chief Innovation Officer you know the truth: People don’t like failure. Failing is scary. Failing hurts. Failing is something to be avoided.
Because failure is what happens when you try, things don’t turn out as you expected, and don’t learn from it.
When we appropriate cool sounding glib alliterations, they cover up and excuse failure—they invite ignorance, laziness, incuriosity, and poor performance. Who wants to celebrate that?
So here’s what I invite you to do instead: Hypothesize, explore, experiment, invite the unexpected, observe, be surprised, learn fast, change your hypothesis.
And do it all again.
That’s not failing.
Failing and learning are not the same thing, they are antithetical. They shouldn’t be clumsily exchanged with one another.
Buckminster Fuller said: “There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes.”
Too often in business, when things don’t turn out as expected, it is labeled a failure. The brakes are put on. Someone gets a black mark. And attention and resources are shifted elsewhere.
That’s what real failure looks like.
A failure to recognize the unexpected as a promising window into a breakthrough.
A failure to stop and say, “Wow, I never imagined that would happen! What did we learn? And how does it change what we should do?”
F*&k failure. It should be feared and avoided at all costs.
So, if there’s a need for a pithy platitude, here’s one I just made up: “Learn without fail.”
Or here’s another: “Fail to learn or learn to fail.”
If you want to learn how to do this yourself, we have a handbook that will help you do just that.
“The founders of Solve Next take readers on a wonderful first hand journey of disruptive innovation. Think Wrong is as inviting as a cookbook by Jamie Oliver and as instructive as a business book by Clayton Christensen. The authors show us how to unlock human ingenuity to build and grow clever, practical, original, and viable solutions to our biggest challenges and most exciting opportunities.”
Rita Gunther McGrath
Professor at Columbia School of Business, Best-selling author of The End of Competitive Advantage
And if you’re already in love with the prospect of thinking wrong you can learn about our cloud based problem solving system and in-person service here.
“Branson can’t afford his pilots to fail again or fail better or fail forward or, frankly, fail at all. Ever. Pretending to embrace failure when you don’t is disingenuous and potentially dangerous.”
Rob Ashgar pulls back the curtain on Silicon Valley’s Fail Fast lie in this Forbes article from July 2014. “Why Silicon Valley’s ‘Fail Fast’ Mantra is Just Hype”