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Why failing fast doesn’t teach us anything

Posted 6 years ago

You’ve no doubt heard the mantra ‘Fail Fast, Fail Often’.

If you have a start-up or an innovation project, turning this mantra into a mandate is essentially setting yourself up to waste time and money.

Failing is not the objective, whether it’s fast, slow or often. But ‘Learn Fast’ – that’s a different drum beat!

While this might seem like I am splitting hairs, there is an important distinction between failing and learning. Just because someone fails at something does not mean that they learn from the experience.

For example, how many people do we know who make the same job, social or relationship mistakes over and over again?

Learning, on the other hand, takes a degree of internal review, soul searching, or analysis as to what went wrong, why it went wrong and steps to undertake to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Even with successful projects, there is a need to learn – there is always a way to do things better based on an actual experience.

When we finish a role with a start-up company we often undertake a ‘what would we have done differently’ session and document the learnings.

Maybe we are a bit formulaic, but documenting the learnings is a useful activity because it helps to clarify key points and becomes a point of reference for future activities.

So next time you hear someone talk about ‘Failing Fast’ pull them up and ask if they mean ‘Learning Fast’. They will no doubt suggest that you are splitting hairs; but for me, I would much sooner learn than fail.

Impact Innovation Group focuses on smart ways to take ideas to market. If you need help learning how, contact us.

– Brian Ruddle, Managing Director

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