October 20, 2017

The Value of Spending More Time with Failure

The value of spending more time analyzing failureI’ve been spending lots of time lately with startup companies and venture capitalists. I love the early-stage environment because there’s so much energy and innovation.

The pace is fast and every decision seems weighty – almost life and death.

Of course, we all hear about and celebrate the rising stars that succeed in moving from a startup to a growth company. These entrepreneurs have great stories to tell and there is much to learn from their experience.

We hear much less, however, about the companies that fail. The ones that either don’t make it at all, or stumble badly because of a fatal flaw in product, management, financing or customer understanding.

In these cases, people are less eager to talk about what happened along the way.

But I’d argue that failure is the constant companion of success; and the more we can accept failure as part of success, the more we can learn from it and the faster we can succeed. In fact, nothing is as important as taking the time to analyze and evaluate our failures from every angle.

It’s how we grow ourselves and our companies.

Whether you’re developing software or building an organization to tackle a social need, the reality is that at least some failure will likely be a part of your journey – so it’s imperative to learn how to leverage the experience to your benefit.


The first step in leveraging failure is to recognize that failure drives us to change. That’s its value.

We don’t like the feeling of failure – so, in life and in business, we learn how to do things differently to avoid that feeling.

The trick is to be more conscious during this process.

Instead of quickly moving on to the next idea, strategy or plan after failure, take a timeout and ask yourself:

What can I learn from this? Make a list of what went wrong and note the lessons you want to remember.

What could I have done differently? This will help you think about new options and approaches. In other words, it’s the transition from focusing on what went wrong to thinking about solutions.

Do I need to improve or build a skill? Sometime failure results because you just don’t know what you don’t know. Getting better at something or learning a new skill may be exactly what’s needed to achieve success next time.

Who can I learn from? All good leaders ask for help. They seek out knowledge, advice and mentors. Surrounding yourself with smart, supportive people not only reduces the risk of failure, it also provides you with an instant lifeline for when you do stumble.

What will I do next? Take time to craft an action plan that helps you set a new direction and then create a roadmap to get there.


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