So it’s good to fail – is it?
By Roger La Salle
Are these people “for real”
Yet again I was at a conference hearing speakers on innovators and entrepreneurship in essence extolling the virtues of failure. The inverted logic suggests that if you fail often enough the learnings from this will somehow as if by magic eventually lead to success. It seems that for some it’s axiomatic that failure begets success.
Does this really happen?
Time and time again the common theme of all speakers that have made it big is that they had to fail first to learn the lessons that led to their success. Further, many, no in fact all, suggest that it was their persistence against all the odds that led to their success. The doubters and naysayers were aplenty, but they persisted and won. I have no argument with these people and one must admire their success. Of course the take aways from such presentations are twofold. First, it’s ok, indeed perhaps even good to fail and second, if you persist you will win.
There is a saying I picked up that was doing the rounds in Malaysia some time ago to the effect that a person has only two options, to persist or die. This saying was indeed embraced and promoted as good business thinking. I trust not too many took it literally.
What’s the real message?
Whilst persistence is important, indeed vital, one must be aware of when to stop. It’s a bit like what Einstein is said to have stated, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is madness. Admittedly, the new product entrepreneur may simply be looking at different ways to make or sell something, but notwithstanding, there does come a time to cut ones losses and move on.
As for the art of failure, yes it’s ok to fail, but fail fast and fail cheap, don’t bet the farm on any single initiative as the odds of success are small, almost vanishingly small when you compare the number of successes with the number of triers.
The digital age
In this the digital age we can now see budding entrepreneur nerds popping up everywhere where the cost of exploring new horizons can be negligible. I wonder how much was invested to get Facebook off the ground, or Twitter or Amazon for example, compared with a company such as Apple where the start-up investment would have been huge.
Sure the digital age has opened new doors, but still the same advice applies.
As more speakers come to the podium, and of course we only get to hear from the successes, please refrain from preaching these uninformed opinions. Failure may be a good learning curve, but it’s not a virtue, nor is blind persistence.
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Roger La Salle, trains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organizations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development and is the author of four books and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australia and overseas. He has been responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panelist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast. www.matrixthinking.com
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