Thomas Edison famously said that in his quest to invent the light bulb, he didn’t fail, he just discovered 10,000 ways that didn’t work.
In this respect, it can be said that Edison’s greatest achievement was tenacity rather than ingenuity. This distinction should help business leaders and entrepreneurs in their pursuit of success.
expansion of knowledge
Virtually no one tries to fail, but failure is itself an important step in the learning and innovation process, according to Elysse Newman, associate dean of research at Clemson University’s School of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.
“Failure itself helps us understand the limits of what we know,” Newman says. “If you can tell me something, it will definitely help.”
However, in the business world, we tend to try to control all variables to minimize the risk of failure and protect the bottom line. According to Alex Estevez, his partner at Accel Ventures and chair of his NEXT Venture Summit in Greenville in 2022, this is understandable, but could lead to increased risk aversion and stifling innovation. I have.
“Innovation requires experimentation When It’s an error,” says Estevez. “If we celebrate innovation, we must understand and accept the necessary “errors” and related failures. ”
He cites the example of Accel’s seed investment in Stewart Butterfield and the project that eventually became Slack, a ubiquitous communications platform widely adopted in the business world.
His first project was a video game, which ultimately fell through, but Butterfield persisted and realized that the internal communication platform he had developed during the development of the game was a true innovation.
According to Estevez, Accel’s bet on Butterfield’s entrepreneurial prowess paid off, with Slack ultimately sold for $28 billion.
“It doesn’t always work out like this, but it’s a good example of how failure doesn’t lead to defeat,” says Estevez.
learn from mistakes
For entrepreneurs and startups, the risk of failure is real. Many factors can be responsible, but careful planning and willingness to learn from failure can lead to success.
According to Piedmont SCORE’s Marjorie Luke, careful planning is an important first step in any new business venture. SCORE is one of the nation’s oldest and largest mentoring organizations for entrepreneurs, providing a wealth of resources for those starting their own businesses.
“Possibility of failure should be part of everyone’s initial business plan,” Luke says. “[Failure] It should never surprise you. ”
It is not the failure that ultimately leads to success, but the willingness to learn from it and apply the lessons to new approaches.
According to John Moore, principal consultant at Greenville-based Momenteum Strategies, this is a crucial difference. Moore, who frequently advises startups and their founders, points to another Edison quote on sustainability. The surest way to succeed is to try one more time. ”
“Failure doesn’t have to be fatal from a business standpoint, especially in someone’s career lifecycle,” says Moore.
Moore doesn’t advocate celebrating failure per se, but says entrepreneurs should be encouraged to try new ventures, even if they don’t succeed.
He adds that it’s important for the startup community to foster support networks that admit failure but are willing to provide the help entrepreneurs need to “get back on another horse.”
“That’s the key point, to keep this cycle going,” Moore said. “Results come from hard work”
Examples of failures that pave the way to success
- Walt Disney’s first venture into animation, Laugh-O-Gram Films, started with $15,000 but was ultimately unsuccessful as a major distributor closed.
- Before founding the company that would become Candy Colossus, Milton Hershey had seen his last three attempts fail.
- Twitter co-founder Evan Williams has witnessed the impending failure of a podcasting platform called Odeo, which launched at the same time as Apple’s iTunes. He unplugged his Odeo and focused on developing what had been a side project.