Good Failure: 3 Possibilities

Consider the following:  You begin something new knowing there is a significant chance you will fail.  Your new service or product is likely doomed to barely see the light of day.  And somehow you move forward, regardless.

This is not an uncommon position for an entrepreneur, but we typically say the opposite to outsiders:  I am beginning something new with the expectation of success.  And, of course, both are true and depend on the circumstances.

Innovation depends on failure as much as success because new hypothesis have to be tested and new products launched without guarantees.  Science depends on the former and in the latter case, successful business leaders encourage the experience of failure.  Why?

  • If you are at the edge of a development for a new service or product, failure is one of the ways you learn to better understand the marketplace, and then improve your offering.
  • Failure builds our market muscles for the next opportunity.  It is not unusual to run into a confident business person who can list past failures and how they only increased the determination to succeed.
  • At the most senior level, mature executives learn to achieve some balance in the ebb and flow of success and failure because they know they are related.  Life is full of both, and realizing this places you in a position to make competent decisions.

Yes, there are costly failures that are bred from inattention to the marketplace or operational detail, as well as incompetence and renegade behavior.  But when a business leader creates an environment where it is safe to take accountable risks, they typically reduce the likelihood of a very expensive catastrophe.