Fail Your Way to…Failure

There’s growing support for the “fail fast” mantra as a means to ultimate success. In the most current edition of Businessweek, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz encapsulates this philosophy in her guest editorial. She says, “My motto is ‘fail fast forward.’ You can fail, just do it fast and move forward. I think people get better when they fail.”

Certainly, we all fail at some point or another, at this or that. The obvious key in those situations is to learn from the experience and succeed in future efforts. However, the reason many people fail is because they don’t actually think about what they want to accomplish and the most effective way of going about it. In our action-oriented society, we ignore the preparation required for “ready…aim…fire” and just “fire!”

In the strategic thinking developmental sessions I lead, I ask participants, “How many of you take time each week to think about your work, what you’ve learned and how to do it more effectively?” Less than 10% do. The reason why the “fail fast” mantra has gained in popularity is because it’s much easier to just do something and fail, then to actually have the discipline to take time out individually and collectively to think about the issues, develop a plan of action and then act. Does this guarantee success? No. But it does greatly improve your chances of success.

I’m not sure about where you work, but my experience is people who are continually failing at what they do become known as failures. And in today’s economy, someone who is always failing is a prime candidate for the door the next time the company decides to cut costs.

It’s one thing to fail occasionally when taking a smart, calculated risk. Great strategy requires risk. It’s another thing entirely to not have the discipline to take time to think about what you should do and how to do it effectively. Think before you act, fail a little and succeed a lot.

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