How Failure Breeds Success

Businessweek has a nice article about failure.

Granted, not all failures are praiseworthy. Some flops are just that: bad ideas. The eVilla, Sony Corp.'s (SNE ) $500 "Internet appliance." The Pontiac Aztek, General Motors Corp.'s (GM\ ) ugly duckling "crossover" SUV. For good measure, we'll throw in our own industry's spectacularly useless flop: the CueCat. A marketer's dream, the device, which was launched in 2000 (when else?), scanned bar codes from magazine and newspaper ads, directing readers to Web sites so they wouldn't have to go to the trouble to type in the URL.

But intelligent failures — those that happen early and inexpensively and that contribute new insights about your customers — should be more than just tolerable. They should be encouraged. "Figuring out how to master this process of failing fast and failing cheap and fumbling toward success is probably the most important thing companies have to get good at," says Scott Anthony, the managing director at consulting firm Innosight.

"Getting good" at failure, however, doesn't mean creating anarchy out of organization. It means leaders — not just on a podium at the annual meeting, but in the trenches, every day — who create an environment safe for taking risks and who share stories of their own mistakes. It means bringing in outsiders unattached to a project's past. It means carving out time to reflect on failure, not just success.

Several CEOs discuss their biggest failures as part of the article. That isn't something you see very often, so it's worth a read.

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