May 17, 2011
Principle 5 – Step One
“A man should never be ashamed to own that he is wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.”
– Alexander Pope
Startups fail perhaps more than any other business. Not to say that they aren’t or won’t be successful businesses in their own rights, but that the opportunity for failure, regardless of scale, exists far more frequently than anywhere else. However within that area of possible and frequent failure is a tremendous space available for growth, if startups are open to it.
Failing and learning from failures are two entirely different things and what invariably separates the successful businesses to those that succumb to failure. There is however a level of humility that is required to bridge the gap between learning and failing and acknowledging your mistakes, both personally and as an organization is the first step. Creating a culture of accountability in your startup, which is part of the sustainable startup model, means taking responsibility for the mistakes that were made in projects and learning how to grow from them.
1) Being wrong is not wrong.
Overcoming the misconception that being wrong is bad requires a fair amount of humility within an organization. While people would clearly rather be right than wrong, making mistakes is an inevitable part of life and work. You will never get it right 100% of the time, it’s simply not possible. Taking the stance that mistakes are an opportunity to grow and learn as opposed to a time for blame and escaping accountability will help your organization grow.
2) Fail fast
Accepting that it is okay to be wrong and okay to fail are important steps for this Principle, but so is keeping your momentum moving. When you fail there is an overwhelming urge to take time to lick your wounds and recover, to rest on your laurels and let the entirety of the situation sink in before moving forward again.
What this does is lessen the impact that your failings have. It not only takes away the sting of the mistakes, but the energy to move forward as well. As children we were told to pick ourselves up off the ground, dust off our knees and try again which is exactly the point of failing fast. Don’t mull over your mistakes or failings, pick yourself up, find solutions, rectify your mistakes and attack it hard. Step Two of this Principle will outline some exercises that we recommend to do what it takes to turn your failures into successes.