When is Failure An Option?
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Einstein.
Corporate America, Big Business Models and the like, would have us to believe that success is the most important element. The bottom line, the customer acquisitions, the features and functions of our products… those must all be amazing. There can be no “in process” features. We see it in the commercials on TV; we attempt to bury, hide, and ignore the side effects of our actions. Pharmaceutical commercials would have you believe that medications will cure your ails despite causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, suicidal thoughts, suicidal ideation and generalized anxiety. What are we selling in this? The idea being sold to you is that only the good stuff matters; sweep the bad stuff by in a brief winded sentence that hopefully no one will notice.
How many of our teams and management structures are run the same way? We go to meetings and begin conversations with this over-arching power struggle that leaves us trying to “please the man” in the process. How do I avoid disappointing the boss?
I think many of us become entrepreneurs because of this – we want to become the boss and not because of some desire for power but rather for the ability to make choices that may potentially be disappointing or wrong. Making wrong, disappointing, or even simply bad choices sucks. It sucks but consider: in an iterative process, unless you are failing – you are not learning.
We should not necessarily go into tasks believing that we will fail but we should go into them understanding the risk of failure: My business idea may never come to fruition. My startup may fail (holy crap, 75% of them do anyway). My project may not deliver as expected. My team may not work well together. My marketing campaign may fall on deaf ears. Even more simply and closer to home, I may disappoint my spouse. My children may be mad at my parenting. We may “fail” at any given moment when we are faced with the option of choices. The “right” choice is subjective and in many cases, our definition of success may be predicated on someone else. Someone else, out of our control, may decide our success based on the choices that we make and the steps we decide to move forward with.
The goal then is not to merely brush over these failures but to accept, review, plan and change.
Following the empirical processes of the Deming Cycle:
Plan, Do, Check, and Act.
This is why Lean for Startups and agile principles are so important. Intuitively, we safeguard against failure but it isn’t until we engage in the doing (the bold scary land of moving forward with our ideas) that we can learn and pivot our ideas when it’s necessary and important. It isn’t until you make choices that you can truly open your eyes to see the road that is in front of you. You must take steps forward but more importantly, if you fail or falter, get up and learn – getting up quicker every time.
So when is failure an option?
… When you stop being afraid of the let downs and want to simply learn and, if or when you have to, do it better the next time…
Risk is inherent; learning is a choice.
What are you currently learning in your business projects?