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Why you should fail fast

Failing is part of the Startup culture. To fail fast is key. Fail fast in order to learn. So why is failure still something uncomfortable for the business community outside the tech and startup world? Maybe because the school system often teaches us that there is one correct answer to questions. Or maybe because traditionally religion taught us that either you do the right thing or you should feel ashamed. People are often reluctant to answer something wrong.

I recently read that the Swedish government has set up a workshop to learn more about the Startup culture. In politics it’s all about never failing and always giving the right answer. Failure is dangerous. In the startup world it’s even encouraged to fail and thus to learn. The outcome of that workshop will sure be interesting.

Facebook has a quote at their HQ stating that “done is better than perfect”. Another common way of thinking in the Startup world is the loop: “build-measure-learn”. Don’t spend too much time before you get your product out on the market. You can’t get it perfect anyway without getting a prototype or beta version out. It’s better to gather some feedback and real user experience in order to understand how to iterate and polish your product.

In Uppsala, an old university town in Sweden, there is an old and (now) debated quote that states that “to think free is great but to think right is greater”. Our school system was built around the industrial society where the key was to learn your place in the system and only do the right thing in the right way. Today, even being a top student who has learnt how to memorize the right answers, is not enough. Problem solving and flexibility are prerequisites for today’s world and work life. Still, we are often obsessed with the right answer.

What does this mean in the long run? Will curiosity be encouraged? To keep an open mind and flexible attitude along the way enables you to actually see the occasional and rare opportunities presented to you along the way. Things can easily be missed out if one is too determined in doing the right thing too focussed on giving the right answer. The only thing we can know for sure is that change is the only constant thing and markets and societies evolve.

The future will probably be for them who stay curious, learn by their failures and are ready to re-evaluate what they believe is the one correct answer.

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