We’re a bunch of failures

We probably even failed at this post.

We fail fast to learn fast. If an idea doesn’t take off, we’re not afraid to pivot and improve or ditch it and move on. If it succeeds, we iterate and make it better. It’s only once we’ve turned every assumption into measurable results that a product can graduate to the next phase. So if making mistakes isn’t bad for business, why aren’t more organisations jumping on the bandwagon?

Founder of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman, famously said, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”. This kind of thinking isn’t new. Facebook developers are famous for their iterative approach to improving its platform. They’ll test a concept in one market before rolling it out anywhere else.

But even digital royalty like Mark Zuckerberg and Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel aren’t immune from flops — there aren’t too many people talking about Wirehog or Future Freshman these days. But they’re willing to give it a go, test the market appetite and move on to more lucrative territories when they get no bites.

We live by this too. This includes releasing our MVP into the market well before it’s ready by traditional standards. Our first version of our apps haven’t exactly been something we’d use to impress a first date. But engaging early market response is crucial — even if its first release is more awkward than Uncle Ross dancing to Madonna.

When we work with our followers early to identify glitches or UX issues, we have the agility to fix them without being tied down to a rigid wireframe that was produced months ago. This means all our projects are constantly being reviewed and refined — we don’t just release them into the wild, we’re on the journey the whole way. And sometimes, we’re forced to accept defeat (RIP Atom, Pixel, Beta and gigs).

In fact, failure is something we deal with almost daily. We come up with ideas. They get shut down. We create prototypes. They break. We throw light bulb-shaped stress balls into boxes. We completely miss.

That’s because the Yes Lab is not measured by success, we’re measured by productivity. If we’ve effectively killed four ideas at the MVP stage, it’s considered a huge win. It means we’ve wasted nothing more than a bit of time, a few post-in notes and maybe a couple hundred dollars (a drop in the ocean compared to the traditional waterfall approach).

Trying something new is risky. You may lose time, money, clients or even your competitive advantage (New Coke, anyone?). Mistakes are rarely celebrated — everyone wants a pat on the back, not a damaged ego. But what’s the alternative? If we don’t make ourselves open to ridicule, then new ideas will only ever remain just that — ideas.

With trends hurtling past at rapid fire speeds, companies need to be ready to adapt. This means having the courage to lead the market, not just follow it.

So fight the urge to burrow yourself in a bag of processes and excuses. Take that risk, walk the tight wire and make the call. Because the best lessons are learnt through mistakes and the best ideas rise from the ashes of failure.

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