What if doctor comes up and say, ‘you will no longer be able to walk, as I was trying my new drug which failed to heal your wounds……Before you start to react— Common, don’t be disappointed…Haven’t you heard about #FailFast #FailEarly’
An exaggerated reference of a doctor experiment with a treatment which had consequences on patient’s health, on the pretext that doctor was trying and made a mistake or from corporate perspective, doctor was — embracing failure, failing early and failing fast.
Someone slipped and injured his body, due to a banana peel thrown by passerby. Student failed in the exam because teacher botched up the marks calculation. HR inadvertently updated wrong scores for a candidate, leading to candidate disqualification. Microsoft laid off thousands of its employees because of its failed acquisition of Nokia. Situations are plenty and each has its own merits and justification, but the point is — are these acceptable mistakes? How much is too much — to tolerate a mistake or it is a honest mistake?
Don’t want to be pessimistic, as accepting failure and moving ahead is not just a jargon but a philosophy which applies to various facets of our lives. There would be no child who has not fallen in their first few steps, before they learn to walk, or in schools exams not all of us scored 100%, struggled with accelerator and brakes while learning to drive. These mistakes didn’t mean that we don’t try again, but those were steps which gave us an opportunity to make it better next time.
Thomas Edison said “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” — the result was a lightbulb which became one of the major inventions the world has seen.
One of the famous quote from Henry Ford — “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.”.
CocoCola CEO said “If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not trying hard enough.”
“Move fast and break things” Facebook usual advice to developers in company’s early days.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, mentions “If you’re going to take bold bets, they’re going to be experiments, and if they’re experiments, you don’t know ahead of time if they’re going to work. Experiments are by their very nature prone to failure. But a few big successes compensate for dozens and dozens of things that didn’t work.”
It is not without reason that so many of these big corporates and their leaders are encouraging their employees to make mistakes and learn from failures.
One amazing story which is happening right in front of us , is of — SpaceX — failures after failures have made the company what it is today. A company, founded in 2002, faced string of mishaps, collisions, crashes and what not over last 10 years or so (refer to picture alongside). The humongous magnitude of financial losses it caused, would have deterred anyone, but not the man — Elon Musk (the founder of SpaceX) and his vision of making space travel come out of the fantasy books to actual realisation. From each of the failures he and his team learned, improved and embraced. This is what the man has to say —
“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough”.
Not everything is green — Studies have found that 70% of upstart tech companies fail — usually around 20 months after first raising financing (with around $1.3M in total funding closed). For consumer hardware startups, it is even more disappointing, with 97% of seed or crowdfunded companies eventually dying or becoming “zombies.”. Number 1 reason which was sighted for start-up failure was — there was no market, followed by cash crunch and right team. If you thought start-up are anyway prone to disaster, the story at the enterprises is also not very encouraging, as per Forbes, most of the big corporates who are on digital transformation journey — 84% of them Fail. The Fords, The GEs, The Walmarts of the world, all have made some mistakes or the other. A recent example of a big flop is from an IT behemoth — Microsoft acquisition of Nokia, Satya Nadella, the CEO of the company, confirmed in his book Hit Refresh — “it was too late to regain the ground we had lost. We were chasing our competitors’ taillights. Months later, I would have to announce a total write-off of the acquisition as well as plans to eliminate nearly eighteen thousand jobs, the majority of them because of the Nokia devices and services acquisition.”
Driven by Artificial Intelligence and Robots, whether they will be immune to failures or we will see them make more mistakes and justify them by saying that technology is under early stages and it is still evolving.
While some say, that future will be error free, as Robots don’t make mistakes, they don’t have any bias, they will be just quintessential. On the other hand, critics sight examples like — Google facial recognition (which is based on machine learning), labelled photos of black person as Gorillas Or a self driving shuttle (autonomous driving), which crashed on the first day of its launch in US.
This is so confusing, where to draw the line, would say as long as the quest for invention is not harming anyone, it is a journey for a better future. Having said that, this doesn’t mean that we keep wasting resources, time and energy, just on the pretext that we have to fail. Thomas Edison failed 10000 times for his light bulb, the impact was not on anyone else, but those were the building blocks for the invention.
Essence is that we should follow the procedures, setup the right practices, do all the hard work and give the best each time we do something, because we will have better control in the efforts than the consequences. Fail (if it has to), recover from the pain, learn from the mistakes, again try…don’t give up…keep on doing this until we succeed, giving more than 100% each time.
Need more inspiration, can listen to one of my favourite numbers, comes from a British band — Chumbawamba