We Should Stop Telling Entrepreneurs To ‘Fail Fast’

We Should Stop Telling Entrepreneurs To ‘Fail Fast’

MAX NISEN NOV. 1, 2013, 6:05 PM 1,412 2

“Fail fast” has become standard entrepreneurial advice. Startups and small businesses are told they shouldn’t worry about messing up, because it’s better to quickly realize that something’s not working and move on.  That’s the right idea but very much the wrong attitude, according to Rob Shelton, the global innovation chief of PwC. When the professional services giant did a massive study looking at what separates the most innovative companies from the rest of the pack, one of the most important attributes was what Shelton calls a “Darwinian engine,” defined as a formalized process for innovation, and an ability to rapidly try and test out new ideas and discard the ones that don’t work. But don’t call it “failing,” he warns.“Whenever you talk about breakthrough innovation, a lot of people say you should ‘fail fast’ or ‘fail early,'” Shelton says. “I don’t like the word ‘fail.’ It leads to a negative reaction.”

Instead, innovation should follow a more scientific process. “It’s about having a hypothesis, and testing it,” he says. “If the results don’t match your hypothesis, you’ve got data. If the results do match your hypothesis, then you have a discovery.”

A lot of the time, businesses don’t stumble on the right path until they’ve gone down a few wrong ones. Figuring out what works means you have to shut a lot of ideas and projects down. That can demoralize people. The best way to soften the blow is to have everyone in the right state of mind.

“Focusing on discovery and data development is the right mindset,” Shelton says. “The root of the word ‘failure’ is to disappoint. That’s not what you want. You want people to say: ‘That was good. Now let’s move on to the next one.'”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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