In our recent blog, Lessons from Startup Culture: Learning from a Minimum Viable Product, we examined how “the creation of an MVP itself isn’t the revelation – it’s the ability to learn and adjust based on the customer response that results.” One of startup culture’s strengths has always been the ability to take a big idea and pursue it, iterate it, or change it completely in the search for an end product that resonates with consumers.
In this way, successful startups have redefined failure as a pivot point instead of an end point. For larger, more “traditional” businesses seeking agility, there’s a valuable lesson to be learned.
Failure is a fact of life. While some people prefer to gloss over that reality, I would rather embrace it. In any endeavor we undertake, no matter how successful it ultimately proves, we will fail in some small way. That’s a deeply humanizing truth, and while it may seem pessimistic, our failures (small or large) often hold the key to our success. If we can learn from our mistakes, we emerge stronger, smarter, and more resilient.
I’ve written previously about what we can learn from products that failed, and even highlighted a few prime examples of major missteps from some of the most successful companies in the world. While major corporations often experience failure, it’s an even greater specter in the startup world. Passionate entrepreneurs are launching innovative new ventures every day despite the fact that 90% of startups fail, as Neil Patel recently reminded us in Forbes. Thankfully, this harsh truth conceals a silver lining.
While I was reading the other evening, I came across a tremendous metaphor. Conner Forrest, a writer for TechRepublic, equated admitting your own business’s failures to calling your own child ugly. No one wants to admit that their ideas aren't all that revolutionary or innovative. Acknowledging flaws in our products — ones we have built, invested in, and grown — can be a painstaking process.
However, our success is often defined by how well we handle failure. Not one successful person has achieved their goal without encountering several setbacks and learning experiences along the way. It's certainly difficult to feel like we're on the road to success in the face of a languishing product, but we can refocus our efforts to learn why our product is failing and how we might push it through to market success.
Let's take a look at a few ways to accomplish this: