Blog | Fail fast, learn and adapt quickly

Fail fast, learn and adapt quickly

In the final one of our 10 tips inspired by our Future of Work report Mapping the Digital Future, we look at how to learn and adapt quickly when presented with obstacles or failures that may stall progress.

Be brave, do not fear an imperfect outcome. The more you fail early on, the more you’re likely to learn from these failures and see future successes. This is the philosophy of John D. Krumboltz and Ryan Babineaux, authors of Fail Fast, Fail Often, an influential book that champions the idea of failing quickly.

While it may seem like a paradox, the notion of failing fast has been a business mantra, particularly with startups, for years.

“There’s now a regular FailCon,” explains James Surowiecki in the New Yorker“where people come to hear other entrepreneurs tell about the hard times they endured and about how starting a business and failing actually makes you more likely to succeed in the future.”

According to Richard Branson, who has seen multiple failures, accepting that success is not always guaranteed is a necessary part of business. “It’s incredibly important for all entrepreneurs and business leaders to know when to call it a day,” he says in an interview with Forbes“Learn from [your] mistakes, and move on, fast.”

Of course, it’s no good failing without adapting to that failure. Richard Branson learned that these businesses failed because he was attempting to enter an industry without offering something strikingly different. His target audience were already getting a product they liked for a price they perceived to be fair and consequently, he couldn’t compete.

Video game retail store Game proves the potential for disaster when employers don’t learn from their mistakes. Faced with a changing market, namely the increased demand for digital downloads, the company failed to adapt and consequently went into administration in March 2012.

Borders failed in a similar fashion. When retail giant Amazon began offering significantly cheaper books than its brick and mortar competitors, Borders failed to innovate. The advent of digital books only made things harder for the store and eventually it was forced into administration.

Companies must foster maximum collaboration and experimentation and accept failure as the route to finding success, says Freeformer Erica Neve.

Learn even more about digital and workforce transformation by catching up with previous articles from the Freeformers Changing the Future of Work Mindset Top 10 Tips:

  1. Why you must start at the top to change the Future of Work mindset
  2. Create a collaborative culture to embrace digital transformation together
  3. Your company’s survival depends on digital transformation
  4. Encourage reverse mentoring between different sets of skills and knowledge
  5. Reward people with a digital mindset
  6. Develop physical spaces that are open and collaborative to work and relax
  7. Experiment with digital team days
  8. Allocate a training budget to each employee
  9. Foster diversity of talent and thought
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