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Visually Explained: What Companies Get Wrong About Failure?

Many traditional businesses hate to fail. They embrace concepts such as Fail Fast in public, but deep inside their hearts, they are scared to fail. Failure is what gives corporate employees sleepless nights. In fact, many corporate initiatives fail, such as data science projects, for example. Why is failure so unloved, and what can we do about it? We have to change the way we think about failure.

Failure is not an event, it’s a process.

This distinction is subtle at first glance, but it makes a huge difference in practice.


Here’s an analogy: How would you describe a child’s attempt to learn to walk? You probably wouldn’t say something along the lines of: “This kid fails to walk properly, he’s stumbling and bumping into people all the time, it hurts looking at it.” Instead, you would likely applaud every progress, no matter how small. Each step is part of a process, not a singular, stand-alone failure. The ultimate goal is to succeed and learn walking.

Failure is an inevitable process that is geared towards success.

Think of failures as of a chain of attempts. How many attempts does it take to succeed? Don’t expect the first attempt to be successful.

You’re still scared to fail?

Make more, but smaller attempts. Many data science projects fail because we start huge initiatives, which are expected to succeed instantly. “We can’t afford to fail.” goes the saying. What if you split larger initiatives into smaller ones and allow them to progress? Some will stumble and fall, others will evolve and mature. Eventually, the cumulative attempts will lead to greater success. 

You can translate Fail Fast into Fail Small and Often.
Enjoy the process!

I work in the field of Data & Technology Literacy. Please leave a comment, shoot me an email at [email protected], or reach out to me on LinkedIn.