Why it’s good to fail

by Guy Blaskey Originally published in PPM

Judging by Matthew Syed’s book ‘Black Box Thinking’ and a lot of chatter in marketing circles it looks like failure is set to be the next big thing. And that’s a good thing.

Syed spends a lot of his book comparing the medical industry (especially hospitals) with the airline industry. In NHS hospitals in 2015 The guardian reported that there were 750 avoidable deaths in the every month! In the US the figure is 440,000 each year!! Whereas 2015 was reportedly the safest year in aviation history.

According to Syed this is because when doctors make mistakes they hide them with words like ‘complications’. The aviation industry would never accept ‘complications’. They have black boxes and air crash investigators to work out what went wrong, so that they can work out what to do to fix it, so it doesn’t happen again. Effectively the airline industry sees mistakes and failures as learning opportunities, when the medical industry doesn’t, so the airline industry is constantly improving and the medical industry isn’t.

Why is this important?

The moral of this story is that you should embrace failure, seek to understand it and use it to improve. Plan to fail, just make sure that you can put growth into your failure plans. For example, put 10 similar-ish new products into your store, expect that the majority will fail, but know that the one that succeeds could be a success. Then de-list the products that failed, and try to find products similar to the one that did well. From these new products, some will fail (even the original winner could fail Vs the new products). You then de-list the ones that fail, keep the successful ones and look for more similar products. If you keep repeating this process you will have used failure to get the best products that you can for your store, and your store will be the most successful it can be. You are essentially mimicking the way that evolution works… the ‘fittest’ products survive each generation, and that must be a good strategy, because that’s why we are here!!