Success by Failing Quickly

One of the biggest problems in business isn’t failure.  It’s failing too slowly.

The biggest failure of all is never failing at all.  If you never fail, you are playing it too safe.  You are taking zero risk.  A culture with a fear of failure is a culture doomed tofailure.  Others in the marketplace will pass you by, and it may be too late by the time you realize it.




Failing quickly is much better than failing slowly.  Have you ever been in a business and known something was going to fail?  For whatever reason, the project marches onward.  Meanwhile, everyone who touches it knows the project is doomed.  Yet on it goes, sometimes for years.  I’ve seen some huge, expensive projects continue when, if someone would just do a reality check, the decision to kill it would be obvious.

You might say, “Wait a minute, Skip, no one would watch something fail like that.”  Sorry, it’s true, and I bet it is happening around you.  It’s a rare person and a rare culture where you can shout, “Yes!  I just figured out that this is doomed!  Awesome!”

Now, I’m not talking about the doom and gloom crowd.  There’s always someone who will shoot down new ideas before they even have a chance to succeed.  You need the wisdom to determine that something has failed versus when it needs more time or resources.  That’s not always easy.  The trick is to create a safe environment where it’s okay to express your opinion, and then redefine the mission—or abandon it entirely.

Remember:  Failing is allowed.  Expected.  Maybe even celebrated.  Failing slowly is not.  It’s a symptom of a diseased culture or a lack of self-confidence.

Thomas Edison famously said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  That type of tenacity and focus is what you want to aim for.  If Edison had failed slowly, then failure is all we would have achieved.  By failing quickly, he reached success—and turned night into day.


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