Fail fast ≠ give up

Fail fast ≠ give up

Giving up is the easiest thing to do. That’s why everybody does it. Anybody can give up, but only a professional gives up the right things.

There’s a difference between giving up and abandoning solutions that simply don’t work. The problem is that people tend to mix up hard and impossible challenges – and therefore make the wrong decision. Being able to tell the difference is what makes a highflyer.

The inability to fail fast is as fatal as is giving up. The former is based on incompetent leaders. Agile change will never be obtained by those who have a solid track record in doing what has been done before: keeping up the existing. The latter on the other hand, giving up, is strongly connected to not being able to spark off. Too many of us use an eternity on planning and eventually give up by never even starting the implementation or by giving in if the precious “perfect plan” doesn’t go as it was intended.

Whether the reason is giving up wrong things or not failing fast on the right things, the inevitable outcome is failure.

Failing fast means abandoning the small things that don’t work, such as unsuccessful rewarding systems, overlapping manufacturing processes or unnecessary functionalities of a product. It doesn’t mean giving up with the big things, no matter how difficult or painful. There’s another word for doing that. Giving up is the definition of mentally amateurish people: those who mistake difficult for impossible.

Big deal? Well, epic. You have probably heard that artificial intelligence will replace a lot of human work. Computers are already better than men in several places, and even more so in the future. Information overflow will make it impossible for humans to compete with knowledge. The required skill set in the future will narrow down to doing things that a machine won’t be able to do.

All easy tasks and decisions will be made by computers. But AI will be limited to combining the things that it is already familiar with. AI can produce scenarios, but it doesn’t come up with new. It can’t operate with what doesn’t exist. And that’s where a human is needed. When facing the unknown we must be able to judge the situation right in order to make the right decision.

Whether to fail fast or to give up depends on whether the challenge is hard or impossible.

We have to stop learning things that can be automated and start learning how to learn instead. Learning is a process of repeating what doesn’t work, or in other words failing fast. To to keep on repeating this, we can’t give up after a single failure. We must seek to fail again, or we will not learn. This is the one simple mental change anyone has to adopt in order to keep on track.

We are all under constant change. Whether we aim for a better health, business or social environment, we have a goal to change. And no matter the objective, sustainable change can be carried out only by changing the culture. So do more of failing fast, and less of giving up.

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