Fail fast or learn fast

If we experiment a bit in the beginning, we are more likely to learn something that will help us further down the line.

I was listening with agreement the other day to Mary Mesaglio, a Research Vice President at Gartner, explaining in a podcast of theirs how much more difficult it is to introduce the ‘fail-fast’ concept in the corporate world, while suggesting ways to ease this journey.

I’m sure if you’ve attempted to introduce or apply the fail-fast mentality in the corporate environment, you know that is not very welcome. Possibly because the term doesn’t work in that context. For people in corporate entities or public sector agencies, it sounds like a career threatening move.

‘Failure’ is a fear-triggering word to humans in general. So, what can we call it?

We can call it learning.

Rather than asking how they can fail-fast, business people can ask what they need to learn quickly and what needs validating. Yes, the engineering-minded people will think of fail-fast approaches, but the goal for everyone is learning. What would ‘learning’ look like in our context? And what could we do with it? Why not document it somewhere next to our long-term goals?

Instead of spending time on defining success alone, we should make ourselves more comfortable with potential pitfalls. If we experiment a bit in the beginning, we are more likely to learn something that will help us further down the line.

Consider

For the ‘fail-fast’ mentality to have better chances of sticking in the corporate environment, try to understand the fears associated with the term and adjust accordingly. Why not try other terms? Something like ‘test-and-learn’ might get you the traction you need.

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