Thursday, May 3, 2007

Overcoming Failure Mindset

A colleague wrote an interesting post to his blog titled The Key to Innovation is Failure.

I believe we live in a world now where we are allowed to fail in order to make new discoveries or enact change where it is needed. Look at the many products released by top Internet companies like Google or Amazon. A lot of them are in beta. You are more than likely a user of these products.

Beta at one time used to be "not ready for primetime" and was only released to a select group of people to test out and provide feedback. Today, beta is practically the final release. A wider audience become active users of the product, providing valuable feedback to fuel innovation. Google's latest version of their Blogger tool was in beta for a long time. Within the last year it went into its final release. Chances are it would still be in beta if they only released it to a select group of people. The feedback they received from a larger audience probably helped their programmers create a better product in a shorter amount of time.

I believe this practice will become more and more common, but we have to get past the failure mindset that is pervasive in most businesses today. I understand businesses don't want to be embarrassed by a product's failure or inability to gain popularity (look at the Pontiac Aztek), but I feel you have to put your ideas and your concepts out there in order to get valuable feedback that you can act on. Let more people in on its development. It's done all the time in politics when "trial balloons" are floated. Why can't it be done in business and technology?

If we can overcome our fear of failure I think we'll find that end-users are more forgiving and willing to help out. After all, if they feel they have ownership in how a program or application is developed, they are more than likely to embrace it upon its final release and promote it among their friends, family or colleagues. That, in and of itself, is the best form of marketing any company can buy.


Tac Anderson said...

I hate the term "failure is not an option". It's a great option, as long as you learn from it.
The only true failure is when you stop trying.

Justin Beller said...

The only time when "failure is not an option" is in life or death situations. Most business is hardly life or death except some people act like it is.

Trust me, I've failed many times but I continue to try.

hollyster said...

I was speaking to someone who was in Sales and said that every "no" was necessary because it was just the odds. 1 out of every 100 calls will leade to a sale. He was just playing the odds. I think in design, it's the same thing but it is still good to remember that failure is necessary:

"If you aren’t failing, then you aren’t trying hard enough."