Trying to fail fast to succeed sooner? STOP!

“If hard work is the key to success, most people would rather pick the lock.”

– Claude McDonald

The Stepping Stone…

Ever heard of the ‘fail fast to succeed sooner’ motto?

If you’re into startups I bet you do.

Originating in Silicon Valley, this phrase has not only become a standard business advice, but over the last couple of years, it has even evolved into an international movement.

Yep, I am not even kidding…

Events, TED talks, festivals, best-selling books, you name it.

The common denominator?

Of course – celebrating failure!

You did read that correctly. Founders get out there and share their… success FAILURE stories for reinforcing the idea that is not something you need to be ashamed of, but an essential part of being an entrepreneur.

As they say, failure it’s a key stepping-stone for success and you should embrace it even…

… if you’re a high-achiever, Type A’ personality, Alfa-male/female or whatever you like calling yourself.

And yes as an add-on bonus, failure also, wait for it… builds character!

But are all these any true?

Well, that’s what would be exploring today…

The (Business) Case for Failing Fast

So, why do many startup “experts”… urge entrepreneurs to fail fast?

Well, in their opinion, it boils down to three words:

Little Bets Theory!

What’s that about?

Mic to Peter Sims, creator of this theory

In these fast-moving times, it’s next to impossible to predict what’s around the corner, and harder still to formulate a foolproof plan to deal with it. Truly innovative companies,… don’t get caught up in projections and predictions. Instead, they embrace uncertainty, take a chance, fail quickly and learn fast.”

Not crazy different from what Eric Ries advocates in his classic book, right?

Anyhow, the idea here is that no matter how much research (and thought) you put into your plan, you always start with a set of unproven hypotheses.

And more often than not, will end-up being miles away from reality…

Hence, rather than wasting months on planning (and developing) a product in ‘stealth mode’ hoping that somehow you’ll beat the odds, go and ship something out there, fast, (by rapid prototyping) find the truth early on and learn as much as you can from the experience.

Then keep releasing “stuff” (and iterating them) until you get it right.

This way not only you will minimise the risk of failing big, but also maximise the chances of ever making it…

So, are you sold and ready to get “converted” into the practice of failing fast?

STOP!

Fail Fast to Succeed Sooner is a Terrible Startup Advice

There, I said it!

Why is that?

Simple – the “throw enough mud at the wall and some of it will stick” model, is a startup strategy lottery ticket mentality that can take you only so far.

I know, some of you might say the ‘little bets’ and the ‘spaghetti on the wall’ models… are not one the same.

And you’re probably right.

However, from my own experience I see the majority of this ‘philosophy devotees’ use it as a permission to:

a) Recklessly jump into markets that barely understand (and don’t even bother doing some basic market research)

b) Create sloppy unworkable products just for the sake of shipping something fast

c) Throw in the towel on the first setback because they are trained to believe that startups either take off or not (yep, right from the get go)

So, on this I am with Rob Asghar…

Embracing failure makes for a trendy mythology, especially for the aspiring heroes of innovation. But it’s mostly lip service… Forget the cute mantras. No one should ever set out to fail. The key, really, shouldn’t be to embrace failure, but to embrace resilience and the ability to bounce back.”

But let me make something clear.

In no way I am suggesting to embrace the equally dangerous “refuse to accept failure” doctrine, nor am I recommending that you plan for months on stuff that may or may not work.

Rather, what I and many others say is this: yes start small, ‘go lean’ and do smart experiments, and yes iterate/pivot when needed, but do NOT delude yourself that startups either take off or not and try to fail fast to succeed sooner.

And one last thing about moving fast…

The Inconvenient Truth about Moving Fast & Breaking Thing

What’s that truth about?

Here you go:

We used to have this famous mantra … and the idea here is that as developers, moving quickly is so important that we were even willing to tolerate a few bugs in order to do it…What we realized over time is that it wasn’t helping us to move faster because we had to slow down to fix these bugs and it wasn’t improving our speed.”

– Mark Zuckerberg

Yep, Zuckerberg himself, the guy that pretty much invented this line of thinking points out the obvious:

Moving fast only makes sense when you’re running in the right direction

My point?

Is one thing to strategically ship stuff fast aiming to get maximum impact from minimum effort and a completely different thing to recklessly launching half-arsed products that are unlikely to produce any form of validated learning* just for the sake of learning by failure.

Yes my friends, by recklessly shipping cr*ppy products odds are you will end up either being politely ignored (by customers) and get 0 feedback or receive the classic response: “Your thing is rubbish, give me a break”.

And talking from experience that ain’t no good…

With this out of the way, let’s wrap things up with today’s key takeaways.

Today’s Key Takeaways

– “Throw enough mud at the wall and some of it will stick” is NOT startup strategy

– Forget the cute mantras. No one should ever set out to fail

– Moving fast only makes sense when you’re running in the right direction…

Ok guys, that’s all from me for today.

If you enjoyed today’s post, check out my kindle book, The Aspiring Entrepreneur Entry Strategy: A practical step-by-step guide for finding a validated, winning business idea that stays true to who you are, that is currently available at Amazon.

I hope to see you soon.

Best,

Andreas

Fail fast = quit and give up easy = spaghetti against the wall = no clear strategy going into your business = no ability / willingness to try and pivot as market conditions change = easy way out

– Mark Suster

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