Fail Fast…

A famous paraphrasing of a Thomas Edison quote is “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

…to Learn Faster

While I’m no longer an active venture capitalist in the traditional sense, my Partner Bill and I often still find applicability of what are sometimes considered “start-up” or “venture” philosophies to our current investing model as purchasers of established businesses.  “Fail fast” is one such concept.  In the VC world, whether you say “fail fast” or “fail forward” or “fail often”, it pretty much means you can’t learn, grow, evolve or succeed without trying and failing (hopefully as quickly and inexpensively as possible).  I was reminded of this mantra while listening to a recent podcast on Freakonomics Radio called The Upside of Quitting.

It may seem obvious that this is absolutely true for start-ups.  No product/service, no team, no customers?  There’s only one thing to do – get started!  And fail.  And learn.  And keep going.  In our companies, all of which are established businesses with existing products and services, this dictum is just as applicable as it is to a start-up.  And while I prefer “learn fast” or something with a little less negative connotation than “fail” – the idea is the same.  In business, and in life my opinion, you must embrace learning, evolution and change or you absolutely will fail.  And doing so fast (or at least faster than your competition) can often give you an edge as a market changes / evolves.  Whether in functions inside the four walls or out – trying something new and working to improve, you should expect mistakes, and keep working toward getting it right (or at least – getting it better!).  So if you embrace a culture of organizational learning (a topic for another blog post!), in our view, you are already moving in the right direction!