Photo courtesy of the The Verge

Appreciating Failure

One would imagine that in a week where Jeff Bezos’ shares his thoughts on all of humanity moving to Mars, how Amazon will provide free training to its blue collar workers to actually leave their jobs to find better positions, and how he views criticism and censorship as a nation, that there wouldn’t be much more that he could say to top those discussions.

Yet, out of all the things he’s recently said, the following is what I found to be most impressive. Speaking in regards to Amazon’s failed Fire Phone project, he said:

“If you think that’s a big failure, we’re working on much bigger failures right now — and I am not kidding. Some of them are going to make the Fire Phone look like a tiny little blip.”

Jeff Bezos has already emphasized his willingness to fail during interviews, speeches, and even in quarterly earnings announcements so it’s nothing new.

I’ve already written about his commitment to the idea being a key factor to his success and won’t touch on it again in detail. What his recent quote says about this vision is more than just a willingness to fail. What Jeff said appreciates failure and celebrates the act of experimentation.

One of Amazon’s biggest failures to date, the Fire Phone, would be something that most CEOs would be embarrassed to talk about and would brush off almost like it never happened. Jeff not only addresses it head on, he surprisingly assures everyone that they’ll have even bigger failures to come. As many who has worked with Jeff will tell you, he is not one to enjoy unsuccessful products and failed attempts. What he is doing is not celebrating failure, but valuing it as a necessary and inevitable outcome of experimentation. If one wants to innovate, they need to fail along the way. Jeff is telling us all to appreciate failure by expecting and preparing for it.

In an age where CEOs are full of ego, pride, and are celebrated for being geniuses that see things no one else can, Jeff reminds us what real innovation looks like. It’s not coming up with ideas for social networks in a dorm room, it’s not sketching a vision on a napkin, and it’s certainly not succeeding at everything you do.

As Jeff alludes to, real innovation is the overall net gain of one’s failures and successes.

That spirit of experimentation is more important than all the other things he shared in the past few weeks because its precisely that thinking that brought those ideas, and will bring his future ideas, to life.