Idea #36000… FAILED!
Flying over the Indian Ocean I started to think about failure. Probably not the best time and place for such thoughts but I blame Wired Magazine. The May 11 issue has a feature on the importance of failure in entrepreneurs and what European business needs to learn from silicon valley (I agree mostly).
I was on route to Australia to take part in OzEuXo, an unponuncial word which stands for the Australian European Crossover. OzEuXo brings together 24 documentary / factual film, games and digital media producers (12 from Europe and 12 from Australia), in two reciprocal cross-platform creative and commercial development Labs. I was extremely fortuante to be invited to take part.
The first of the two week long intensive labs took place in Melbourne, Australia and is focussed on idea generation. One of the interesting objectives of idea generation at crossover is the focus on quantity of ideas; by the end of the week it is intended that near 100 hundred ideas have been generated, with roughly 5 decided upon to be developed further, this is an extremely high idea failure rate – 95% Like with business, good idea generation seems to depends on failure.
It would be two easy to accept the ‘be fast to fail’ axiom and not really consider what is important in the process of failure. What I believe is actually happening here, is the process of destroying and rebuilding – it is all about learning. Have you ever watched a kid build a sand castle on the beach or structures at home with giant building blocks. Often but not always, they build, they’re amused for a moment, then they destroy it and start again. Kids are very happy with the transient existence of creativity, they do not get overly fixated on one creation but instead learn something in the process and then move on; this is what I believe is in the process of failure but I do not think failure is necessary to learn nor do I think it should be encouraged, without warning. What we are really after is rapidly absorbing learnings from our experiences and then moving on. All I believe failure brings to the process is that it makes it easier for us to let an idea go. If I invent a car and it fails to sell and bankruptcy ensues, then it is a failure, everyone says so, I can take what I’ve learned and convince myself to drop it. If however it ticks along then it’s much harder for me to make the decision to cut my loses and move on. You could argue that I’d miss out on the experience of going bankrupt, closing down a business and dealing with the stress of it but is that really something I need to learn? Many entrepreneurs have succeed without tasting the bitter pill of bankruptcy.
In Ideonic and every1speaks we adopt a rule of ‘Design for Zero Attention’ when thinking about user experience design. By this we mean that we should assume that our user or player has almost zero attention to spare and so whatever we create has to hook them immediately. What users are doing is making value judgements, I open a game and in the first seconds I make a blink decision about its value, if i’m not convinced it’s worth my interested then I move on. A great old media example of this same instant decision process is channel surfing or flicking, also headlines in newspapers. This same intolerance of time waste we need to strive for with ideas and with our businesses. Pick it up, immediately see the strengths and weaknesses of it and make a quick value judgement, if need be then move on and ask “what can I learn from this?”
If we fail but learn something then we have actually succeeded. True failure only comes from failing and blindly moving on with out learning anything in the process and this should never be encouraged.