16 September 2014
Whilst failure is something most businesses shy away from discussing, my advice would be: dismiss it at your peril. Personally, I don’t think failure is a word we should be avoiding, as it’s something we all experience, whether on a small or large scale, and it’s an inevitable part of running an innovative business.
I saw an interesting article about this topic recently, which praised online retailers who are able to experiment with different technologies and move on swiftly if they simply aren’t working.
I often talk about measuring performance and progress and I think this has a huge part to play here. If you’re bold enough to develop something new, it’s so important to make sure you measure its success. Ask the people who really matter what they think. If it’s not quite working out then take a step back and evaluate your position. Is it worth putting more time and money into, or is it becoming a distraction? Would those resources be better spent elsewhere?
I’m a firm believer in the ethos of failing fast and it’s certainly something we’ve had to put into practice on occasion over the past fifteen years. Sometimes this means technology, other times it means people. If you take on someone who’s not right for the business, chances are, they’re likely to be feeling the same way too. It’s better to fail fast and move on than put time, energy and money into something that will invariably fall apart further down the line.
To put it another way, if you put your hand on a hot stove, you’ll sustain less damage if you remove it quickly than if you try to brave it out. Yet failing fast on its own is of little benefit if you don’t learn from it and react appropriately. Sometimes getting your fingers burned is what you need to make you realise what you’re not, or what you don’t want to be. Maybe it’s time to lose the stove and get a microwave instead…