Thursday, April 18, 2013

Failure: What is it good for?

I've long thought that society needs to change its attitude toward failure. It is only by trying new things that a person learns, a business grows, or a society advances. But trying new things means making mistakes. (The only alternative is to wait until you have every single fact and have worked out every possible scenario – which is a recipe for paranoia and paralysis.)

Earlier this month, Startup Canada ran a “startup chat” on Twitter about failure. Moderator Kelly McGregor’s guest was Laura O’Blenis, Founder of Stiletto Consulting in Fredericton, N.B. They agreed that many entrepreneurs don't like talking about failure, but pointed out that other entrepreneurs in the local ecosystem need to hear their stories; it’s the best way to share solutions and the valuable lessons learned.
You can read McGregor’s summary of the chat here. I like the part where O’Blenis says, “If you are not failing or making mistakes, taking wrong turns sometimes, you are not trying hard enough.” The interactive #startupchats audience agreed, adding that what differentiates winners from losers is not whether or not they fail, but how they deal with failure.

Sounds like common sense, but it’s the kind that’s not common enough.
McGregor writes: “Embracing failure can of course be a tiresome and expensive process. The focus for entrepreneurs is on ensuring you fail fast, and fail cheap. The concept of Minimum Viable Product comes into play here, as developing an MVP will ensure you have minimum investment in a product that is likely to change many times.”