Fail Fast

Last week’s blog on entrepreneurship generated a healthy response. Specifically, I got asked about both key lessons for entrepreneurs as well as key attributes of successful entrepreneurs. I concede I am not an expert in this area, and a ton of literature already exists. When I decided to become an entrepreneur five years ago, I actively solicited advice from successful ones and continue to do so. Of all the nuggets of wisdom that was passed, one stood above all: Fail Fast.

It is highly likely that whatever initial idea you have for your business–and no matter how brilliant you think it is–it will change and hopefully for the better. In fact, by the time you get to your three-to-five year mark, it will likely look quite different (and again, hopefully better) than your initial idea.

This will not happen by chance or naturally. It will take a high degree of emotional intelligence to seek to fail fast. This is incredibly counter-intuitive. Why would you want your great business idea to fail fast? Because an idea is just that, an idea. It is not a business with live customers and business processes.

Contrary to an mere idea, a live business–if you actively seek feedback–will generate an enormous amount of data that will allow you to morph your original idea into a better idea in practice. So “fail fast” is a powerful way to ensure that you’re working out the kinks in your business and are able to quickly get to the state where the idea is working in the real world.

Most of my readers are not entrepreneurs. I get that. You’re in the corporate world and probably questioning how this concept would apply to you. It really is the same. Constantly seeking for feedback in your job/role is exactly what this is. I know the politics and culture of the corporate world is such that it is not safe enough to fail. The wrong failure at the wrong time with the wrong people watching can be a career-limiting move.

So seek a healthy balance. Start perhaps with more safe areas–like your office, your schedule, your staff. What’s working and what’s not working? December is a great time–before the new year–to explore this topic. This week, think of yourself as an entrepreneur, even if you don’t have your own business. Seek areas where it might be safe to fail fast purely for reasons to evolve to a better place.

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One response to “Fail Fast

  1. As an entrepreneur, I completely agree with the approach you lay out. I wish there were a better way in schools to teach students the emotional skills that are needed for success as business people.

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