Good failures, bad failures

Failure as a word has a very negative connotation, no surprises here… and no one wants to fail. But when all the attention and rewards are directed towards winning and the term failure is equated to losing, it has a massive effect.

The success with a flexible and adaptive strategy is to be able to react and pivot quickly away from misguided endeavors to pursue other promising opportunities.

The watershed distinctions here should be made between the good and the bad failures. Not between success and failure. Fast learning needs variation and a healthy failure rate especially when the estimated payoffs are massive. An initiative based on false assumptions is much better killed off after 1 year than after 5.

“When a system fails gracefully, damage is limited, and options for recovery are preserved. Also, the part of the system that has been damaged recovers by drawing resources and information from undamaged parts.” – Thomas Homer-Dixon

Language here is crucial. Some posts suggest that FAIL should be interpreted as “First Attempt in Learning”.  The linguistic conclusion is wrong BUT the thinking behind it is sound. A couple of adjective suggestions to failure that you could consider when describing failures:

  • Graceful v Ugly
  • Intelligent v Dumb
  • Lean v Fat
  • Fast v Lagging


Start celebrating success AND the graceful failures. Relentlessly remove and protect against the ugly ones. 

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