We need to fail forward if we want to succeed

By Mary Porter

We need to force ourselves to become more comfortable with sharing failures…
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Adapt. Change. Pivot. Agile. Iterate. Test. Data-led. Experiment. Hypothesise. Validate.

These words are now part of our daily language in our Growth Tribes, and there have been some great examples of our Skyscanner squads embracing them. But one of the words I think we are yet to get truly comfortable with is FAIL.

And this is perhaps not surprising. From an early age we are taught at school that you will pass or you fail. You are wrong or you are right. One is good and the other is bad, only one leads to success.

Getting Over Failure

In some cultures failure is stigmatised and we are encouraged to believe it is something to be embarrassed by or ashamed of. We are taught that failure is the opposite of success, that there is no grey area.

But surely we know more than we did at school to challenge this definition? That in fact failing might actually take us one step closer to achieving our ultimate goal?

Have we not read enough books and blogs on lean marketing, biographies of famous people who failed before they became successful and concepts such as failure parties to understand that we must build on failure in order to achieve success?

Do we not now know enough to realise that failures can be positive? Are we not intelligent enough not to confuse sloppy mistakes and poor performance with those failures that we should be proud of, because they provide learnings and inform vital decisions that push us forward towards hypergrowth?

Doing Not Saying

I think we knew the theory behind all of this when I shared this with my colleagues a year ago, but the practice seemed to be taking us a little longer to adapt to. We needed to force ourselves to become more comfortable with sharing our failures, not just our successes. If we didn’t, we risked repeating each other’s mistakes, which would slow any progress we could make towards hypergrowth.

And we simply didn’t have time to do that. We needed to share our learnings as quickly as possible so that we could start ‘failing forward’.

Since then we have adapted the experimentation processes so when our hypothesis goes through our scaling platform known as the Growth Factory, we make sure that we’re aiming to either move an experiment to success or ‘fail forward’ status. That way we can learn quickly no matter the result of the experiment. The faster we learn, the faster we grow. Growth is our product!

Did I mention that we even go so far as to give out Fail Forward Awards for those at Skyscanner failing fast?

Pictured here is Marine Bigault from our French Squad receiving her Fail Forward Award Cake for failing and learning fast!
At Skyscanner, if they Fail Forward, let them eat cake!

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About the Author

My name is Mary Porter and I was one of the first 100 employees to join Skyscanner back in 2010. A huge amount has changed since then, not least the fact we now have 770 staff across 10 offices, however despite this we have managed to retain our start up culture which allows us to experiment with new channels and ideas. I love that Skyscanner supports this without any fear of failure.