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Stop Failing Fast in Innovation

In innovation the mantra "fail fast" is often used to explain that people should quickly try out ideas and then learn from the things that fail to develop new products and services. Some people challenged the need for failure and have come up with alternative approaches for effective innovation.

Dan McClure wrote the blog post why the "Fail Fast" philosophy doesn’t work in which he stated:

Established organizations don’t get to make an unlimited number of bets on the marketplace. At some point there is a need to commit resources at an enterprise scale.

According to McClure doing innovation in an enterprise can be challenging due to scale, complexity and stakeholder involvement:

[An established enterprise] face[s] active pressure from disruptive competitors and must operate at scale. Innovations that matter will almost certainly be complex and multi-dimensional. There is still a real need to validate the product-market fit of any new proposal, but that challenge sits alongside the need to build innovations that engage many different stakeholders inside and outside the organization.

He suggest to use the mantra "Learn Quickly and Think Well" for innovation in enterprises:

With each hypothesis tested, extract wisdom. What went wrong? What new things are know about the world? How can this knowledge be used more effectively by us than by anyone else?

Speed matters, but the organizations that excel will be those with teams who get the greatest insight from their testing investment and then design the best pivot toward greater value. It will be the organizations, teams, and individuals who go beyond simply failing fast and who master the art of Learning Quickly and Thinking Well.

In the article why you need to stop trying to ’Fail Fast’ on Entrepreneur Jeffrey Hayzlett explains that you should plan and act for business success in stead of failure:

Simply put, failure has become too much of a badge of honor in this country. I’m never going into a situation thinking I’m going to fail no matter how risky or seemingly impossible it is. There’s always a win-win scenario that doesn’t involve hurting anyone if that’s what you want to do.

According to Hayzlett we have to look for success, celebrate it and use it to get better and grow:

I believe we’re making so much of our mistakes and thinking of failure as the new black that we’re getting bad at celebrating actual success. And isn’t that what we’re really talking about here: success? (...) Maybe the reason we don’t celebrate success enough is because we think and act small; the successes aren’t much to celebrate. That’s the real danger here: allowing the voices in our heads to creep in again and keep us from thinking and acting big.

Patrick Gray wrote the TechRepublic article Fast failure: The secret to fostering more IT innovation than your competitors. He describes why we need to stop when things go wrong and focus on learning.

As soon as an effort has failed to the point that reasonable course corrections cannot turn things around, it’s time to call a halt, and lead an analysis of what went wrong. Objectively investigate whether environmental factors were misjudged, incorrect resources were assigned, or technologies deployed that were not up to the task.

He explains why it’s important to analyse a failure and assure that actions are taken:

At all times during this investigation, regard the failure and its analysis as efforts to move forward, rather than efforts to assign blame or fight old battles. If an individual was unable to perform his or her assigned tasks, look for a new role for that person, or determine how their role and support structure can be changed to ensure success. Develop recommendations for how to modify the effort to ultimately achieve your objective that are concrete, actionable, and measurable, and immediately begin to implement the recommendations as you relaunch an effort to achieve your ultimate objective. Use failure to learn how to improve, implement what you learn, and then move forward.

In the blog post three key ingredients to learning from failure Jennifer Garvey Berger explores what it takes to learn from failure. He mentions time, sense of purpose and leadership as the main things that give people the strength to learn and continue in innovation:

Time: (...) It takes time to metabolize a failure into a learning experience.

Sense of purpose. (...) With your eye on that larger purpose, each failure becomes a step toward a bigger success.

Leadership. (...) the reaction of their leader (or a mentor or a coach) to the failure had a massive impact on whether or not the failure could be metabolized into learning and the courage to try again.

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