July 29, 2021

Fail Fast And Fail Forward … Learn By Doing

arrows merging forward

It’s doubtful that anyone ever made a success of anything by waiting for all the conditions to be just right before starting. Failing fast and failing forward is a pretty established concept and is a ‘cute’ way of saying “Learn by Doing.”

Understand there will be failures, and keep moving forward—no wasting time. Your laser focus on getting the idea/business/product for your business right is of primary importance. Nothing, personal or professional, gets in the way of advancing it quickly and your passion for getting sales closed and the business moving is paramount in the early phases of your endeavor.

Failing forward is very visual for me. When you fail forward, you use it as a learning experience to advance things. You do it quickly, and you bounce back up to your feet almost before you hit the ground—nothing more and nothing less. Conversely, failing backward is where you spend too much time dusting off or wondering why that happened, or worse, feeling sorry for yourself or blaming others. There is no time for that.

We have all been around glass-half-full people. They just see the best in things, the opportunities each situation presents, and they keep advancing. That is where you should try to be. Sadly, we have also been around the glass-half-empty people who tend to spend time blaming, bemoaning, and reliving the things that went wrong. Avoid those people, and try not to be that person, as it will drain your soul.

Let me clarify the “forward” piece of failing forward, though. Forward does not carry with it a warp speed that has you doing things that are done willy-nilly, randomly, in a poorly thought-out manner, or sloppily! Forward does not mean repeating the same mistakes. Forward actually carries with it the implication that you are thinking things through and being deliberate in your actions. The “fail” piece is just a fact that you are going to fail more often than not. Nowadays, you often hear the phrase “Go fast and break things.” While “fail forward” has some of that in its DNA, fail forward is probably a few miles per hour slower, but advancing nonetheless.

You have to really listen every day to feedback you are getting in this phase also. In gathering the feedback, you then need to quickly think about how you want to adjust the idea or model by the next day. Some changes are small, while others are profound. Failing fast and forward is something you are doing in the quiet of your office or garage and not something you are exposing everyone to. This is where you are hunkered in, dusting off the failures, and then coming out to the world with the next version.

The “forward” is the next version of your product/service or approach after you failed. This is about actual changes you make to either your product/service or approach—or both. Big changes are not a different version of a PowerPoint deck with a different spin. Big changes or adjustments to your approach are more profound and involve new materials, different components, improved options for pricing and usage, etc. You will know when you are making real (big) changes when you go back to people in the Lunching/Selling Stages and they say, “Wow, this has advanced a lot since we last met.”

Originally posted on Forbes.