Maximize the Failure Rate

This is a reminder to myself.  It’s about failure, which is a paradoxically fantastic thing if you have the right attitude.  Let me describe the attitude I am working to gain.

  • If you fail three times in a week, make a goal of trying (and possibly failing) five times the next week.  Failure is the right thing as long as you’re trying sincerely and the rate of failures is increasing, or you’re failing less each time.
  • You won’t succeed at really complex things until you’ve failed a lot first, so your best bet is to fail as fast as possible.  Enjoy the journey!
  • Mere repetition isn’t sufficient.  After each failure, try something significantly different.
  • Report and graph the failures.  Talk about them.  Things that get reported tend to improve.
  • Goals need to be simple, but some goals are inherently complex.  You can simplify a goal by maximizing the rate of failing to achieve the goal.
  • If rapid iterations of failure are not possible due to circumstances outside your control, fail in parallel!  Try many things at once.  Don’t forget to report on all of the failures.
  • When you finally do succeed, continue to try other things.  In other words, keep failing!

This is particularly applicable to small business.  Discouragement resulting from failures can spread like a disease.  However, the “maximize the failure rate” attitude can make you immune to that kind of discouragement.

Wrong attitude: “We failed.  Maybe we should give up.”

Right attitude: “We failed again?  Ye-haw, that means success is closer!  Now how can we fail faster (or less expensively) next time?”