Are You Organized For Failure?

Clay Shirky’s book, Here Comes Everybody – The Power Of Organizing Without Organizations is essential reading for everyone seeking to understand how our world has been redefined by the web.  I threw sticky notes in a few pages and wanted to highlight a quote that warrants more discussion.  This is from page 246, where the open source movement is being discussed:

In traditional organizations, trying anything is expensive, even if just in staff time to discuss the idea, so someone must make some attempt to filter the successes from the failures in advance.  In open systems, the cost of trying something is so low that handicapping the likelihood of success is often an unnecessary distraction.  Even in a firm committed to experimentation, considerable work goes into reducing the likelihood of failure.  This doesn’t mean that open source communities don’t discuss — on the contrary, they have more discussions than in managed production because no one is in a position to compel work on a particular project.  Open systems, by reducing the cost of failure, enable their participants to fail like crazy, building on successes as they go.

This is a game-changer for your business.

Using digital communications tools allows you to try everything out and see what sticks.  It allows you to embrace failure at minimal or zero cost.  Technology enables you to open source parts of your business.

The most successful people and organizations fail far more than they succeed. You just only hear about the successes.  No one creates a blockbuster every time.  But if you are organized for failure, ready to embrace it and learn from it while building a knowledge base, it can be a winning strategy.

  • There is no longer a cost barrier to sharing your organization’s thoughts, potential new products and potential new services directly with your consumers and seeing what resonates.
  • There is no longer a cost to spread messages, images, videos, coupons, run special offers/LTOs, etc.
  • There is no longer a cost to create highly relevant focus groups at your whim if you’re organized for it.

These are just a few areas where being setup for failure enables the freedom to easily experiment.

If you’re organized for failure, you don’t have to give the market what you think it might want.  You can give the market what it didn’t even realize it wanted until you stumbled upon it by putting the idea out there.  And, you are far more open to stumbling upon potential hit ideas if you are able to fail like crazy.

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If it’s original, you’ll have to ram it down their throats.”
-Howard Aiken, creator of the IBM/Harvard Mark 1 Computer

Learn to embrace failure, make it a non-event using digital tools and you will open up a world of possibility previously inconceivable because of cost, management or logistical barriers.

This can give you the ultimate edge over your competition.

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