Fail Fast is not “Bail Fast”

It’s an interesting balance to hold: being focused enough on our goals to put the time and work in to make them happen, and yet being “heads up” enough to scan the horizon for opportunities to exploit and move us forward. When do you give up on something that once was a good idea. When does persistence become psychotic?

There are behaviours at either end of the bell curve. Take the Dyson vacuum. It was ten years from start to success. And it wasn’t until the marketing campaign emphasized not having to replace the bag, not the loss of suction as the container filled up – the original inspiration for its invention –  that it began to sell. Ten years is a long time not to make money.

Then there was the local successful entrepreneur whom I met for lunch at a local motorcycle-themed restaurant. He scoffed at the current venture capital penchant for all giving the same advice to new entrepreneurs, including and especially the advice to “fail fast”. He scoffs and calls it “bail fast”.

He firmly believes two things: that you should be able to re-purpose a technology or invention to many different domains. His medical imaging technology started in the oil and gas exploration and exploration domain, and he can list another half-dozen applications off the top of his head.

He also believes that taking money from investors is a commitment. That if you shrug your shoulders and walk away from a project, especially when it means losing other’s money, you have failed as an ethical person. Not to say that there won’t be failures. What he sees is too many people walking away without having done everything they can.

And this is where “fail fast” really shows up. In this context it means: “figure out as quickly as possible what’s not going to work, and move to the next variation, opportunity, pivot, or experiment. Abandon what doesn’t work while moving forward. If you can’t do that, who knows, we might never have gotten bag-less vacuum cleaners.

The Hard Work:

What is something, big or small, that you should stop doing tomorrow?

One thought on “Fail Fast is not “Bail Fast”

  1. The fail fast technique is an interesting approach to running a business. I am an avid hockey fan but also a fan of business entrepreneurs like Daryl Katz . His family pharmacy empire grew tenfold under his direction and management. He paid $200 million for the Edmonton Oilers in 2008 and he is currently working to refocus his efforts to build Canada’s largest mixed use-sports and entertainment district. He is by far one of the most successful businessmen in North America. I am looking forward to seeing how he helps to take this team to the next level and what is next venture will be. He is really focusing on helping Edmonton become a fantastic tourist destination.


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