Fail Hard. Fail Fast. Fail Often.

Charlie Weston
Apr 3, 2017 · 3 min read

There’s something beautiful about failure. That’s not to imply that failure is fun. It sucks. But it’s one of the most efficient and effective ways to objectively decide if a hypothesis holds water.

Research. Interviews. Data. They all hold value in the discovery phase of a project. Often times, they uncover perspectives and insights that ultimately lead to killer apps. But not without one draw back — time.

At a certain point, too much time in the upfront discovery can lead to diminishing marginal returns. That’s not to say that research is completely useless. But it should be taken with moderation. At a certain point, you have to be ready to take a leap of faith and explore a potential possibility.

Sometimes it’s better to have a semi-developed hunch, create something quickly based on it, circulate it amongst your audience, and make adjustments as needed.

But this is easier said than done. Within our personal lives, failure is looked down upon. Beginning during childhood — failure is taught as something shameful, which is carried throughout our life.

This predisposition to failure is later exponentially compounded in our professional lives. Businesses typically avoid failure at all costs. Employees are promoted and advanced in many cases due to their lack of failure. In most professions this is a good thing. You don’t want a surgeon operating on you if they fail all the time. But when creating products, services, systems, designs, concepts, experiences, or strategies…failure can be a great tool for success.

Putting failure into practice can be challenging though. A fail first mentality can only exist in environments where leadership and culture allow it to thrive.

Fail Hard
Inviting failure into a project is similar to learning how to swim. The hardest part is jumping right in. If you want to truly vett a potential idea, it has to be an all-or-nothing approach. If you approach a project with hesitations or doubts then the outcome will most likely be subpar. To achieve greatness, the fear of failure must be benched. Remove half-measures.

Fail Fast
Don’t be afraid to explore an idea due to failure. Overthinking is the fastest way to never get started. Don’t over-plan, just experiment and see what happens. But don’t wait around forever either. Sometimes bad ideas show their true colors in seconds. If it stinks, throw it out. Ideas are a dime a dozen.

Fail Often
Never stop building new ideas and exploring them. As you fall into a grove of what works and what doesn’t, make an effort to catalogue and record so that smarter decisions can be made further down the road. You’ll fail over 90% of the time. But the 10% that embodies success will launch your project to unseen heights.

Fail hard. Fail fast. Fail often. Rinse and repeat. As the saying goes is better to have tried and failed, than to have never tried at all. Failure is a great way to experiment. It’s an agile methodology that leverages sometimes albeit quick insights to build solution-focused designs, experiences, and strategies. It allows us to test hypothesis and innovate on a dime. It allows us to take something raw and present it to our audience to judge traction. And in the end, as long as learnings were gained and acted on — failing becomes success.

Charlie Weston

Written by

UX Architect @ JLL | Start-Up & Agency Drop-Out | Passionate about creating meaningful experiences that don't suck, for people