Fail Fast and Fail Often
Is your business 'playing it safe'? If so, you could be leaving a lot of money and opportunity on the table. You've been leaving out one of the ingredients to business success: failure.
I know, it's an ugly word to most business-minded people. It means lost money and wasted time and talent. Who wants to fail in business, right?
Not so fast...
Did you know that many of the most valuable companies in the world fail more often than they succeed? Five names from the technology world, where stock prices are hottest and valuations highest, spring to mind:
Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon
Apple's history of failures was lampooned long before I came along. For every Mac or iPhone, the company has churned out a myriad of flops like the Newton and the Mighty Mouse (if you've never heard of either, you didn't miss anything important). They've also had their share of duds, which sometimes they powered through to success, like their early experiment in dark art landscaping known as Apple Maps before they improved it.
Google has a similar graveyard of failures. Buzz, Wave, Jaiku, Schemer, and Orkut all spring readily to mind. They also once killed a product which was arguably a success: Google Reader. And even when they do succeed, such as with Chrome or Android, it often isn't without its stumbles.
Microsoft seems to follow an "Every-Other-Fail" model for their operating systems, where each positive release follows on a flop, e.g. XP for ME, 7 for Vista, 10 for 8. They've failed too many times to count in phones, tablets, music players, and other areas.
Facebook: Facebook Phone. Need I say more?
Amazon: Fire Phone. Enough said.
Yet these are among the most valuable companies on Earth. Some are valued in the billions even when they lose money in a given fiscal quarter.
Why? iPhone & iTunes. Gmail and YouTube. Windows and Office. Facebook and Messenger. Amazon (Enough Said).
What they share in common, at most times, is a fast-fail approach. We never hear about their failures most of the time, because they bury them faster than they birthed them. The ones where they kept pushing it are the ones we remember, the rest are quickly forgotten, and the myth of the 'unstoppable' (insert company name) resumes.
Don't be afraid to fail. Be afraid of not heeding its lessons soon enough. An innovative business can fail seven times before breakfast and be stronger for doing so.
~ +Eli Fennell
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