Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Fail Quickly

Get over it, and move on...

My good friend Mike Ellis recently presented on a notion he calls Collaboration 2.0. One of his slides contains a great phrase that set off a train of thought.

Fail Quickly

Now, I didn't see the talk so I am at risk of trying to make sense of a presentation from just the slides - that is a bit like, as Elvis Costello once wrote, a ballerina learning to dance from a series of still photos.

But Fail Quickly to me opens up all kinds of opportunities from a conflict management point of view.

The fear of failure inhibits innovation and spontaneity. People become reluctant to suggest ideas in case they do not work, especially if there is a legacy of resentment in the wake of previous unsuccessful ideas.

If we were to explore how we can fail quickly then the following things happen;

Build in early tests or samples to see if an idea has potential. If it does not it Fails Quickly before large resources have been invested. This also means that the position of the person who innovated or supported the investment does not need to be defended - a key source of conflict or conflict aversion. (Keep your head down, say nothing)

But Fail Quickly also applies at the other end. If an idea fails, then let it fail quickly. Learn lessons from it - and there is value in learning from failure which can help mitigate the loss of resources - and move on. Get over the failure, both as the innovator and also as management.

Keep going. Move on.

But whatever you do, don't fail slowly.

1 comment:

Mike Ellis said...

Thanks for the mention, Neil.

You'll find this is a recurring theme in many of my talks and posts, particularly the "how much perfection is needed" question. The talk I did for Ignite Cardiff was based around this - see http://electronicmuseum.org.uk/2008/10/07/assumptions-exactitudes/ or more generally, some other articles from my blog at http://electronicmuseum.org.uk/?s=perfection