Learning Doesn’t Always Require Failure

If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve encountered “Fail Fast, Fail Often.” From startups to corporate America, the concept has gained enormous popularity in recent years. Taken out of context, however, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Don’t let “Fail Fast, Fail Often” serve as an excuse for sloppy business operations – whether it’s in manufacturing, marketing, customer service or product fulfillment. Just because you have enough failures under your belt does not guarantee success down the road. Instead, focus on learning and adapting as quickly as possible – always be working toward success. Along those lines, a few words of wisdom to guide you along your journey:

Listen to your customers.

Steve Jobs is famous for his thoughts on focus groups: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Likewise, Henry Ford said customers would simply ask for faster horses rather than a world-changing invention like his Model T automobile. They may be right, but it also means they’re asking customers the wrong question. Instead, ask customers about their opinions, challenges, processes and preferences. When you ask good questions, you’ll learn more than you ever realized and gain a better, more thorough understanding of your target audiences. You might uncover a new business idea, and you can test the assumptions driving your product or service before it goes to market.

Ace the critical aspects of your business.

Whether it’s market research, manufacturing, HR or legal, be sure to bring your A-game to the essential pieces of your business. The details and the execution are what set your business apart. For specific areas, brush up with tips from Roam’s previous blog posts:

Set your product apart.

Trying to be everything to everybody is a recipe for failure. Instead, discover what’s missing in the marketplace and seek to fill that need. Look for the product that doesn’t exist or find a service you can do better or differently. Think carefully about your target audiences. How should you market to each one? Make sure every campaign reaches those prospects, is relevant to them and motivates them to learn more or buy.

Evolve your original idea.

Since you’ve been doing all this great listening with your customers and adapting your business, your venture’s end product or service may have little or nothing to do with your original idea. That’s okay! Only a foolish person would perceive this as a blow to their ego. Take pride in your ability to adjust your assumptions and create a worthwhile offering.

When you get past the “Fail Fast, Fail Often” hype, you can see the bigger picture. Overcome the fear of failure. Have the courage to take risks. Surround yourself with people smarter than you and different than you. Learn faster and adapt more nimbly. Take advantage of every knowledge opportunity. Always be willing to pivot your business as you strive toward success. Good luck learning fast, learning often!