I hear the phrase “Fail Fast” all the time. At heart, the sentiment of this is “Get on with it.” (Which is a good thing) The problem with the word Fail is that it assumes that the effort is going to be negative. Why can’t the message be “Learn Fast“? Fail fast makes me depressed.
Failure is a word that throws people off. No matter how many times people say that we have a “safe” environment, the word Fail is going to be a bummer. If it was Learn Fast, then we would put our efforts in terms of hypothesis and results. We would do more retrospectives and write down what we learned. Words matter!
Some examples of how to Learn Fast and Get on with It:
Avoid Analysis Paralysis
Sometimes it takes so long to analyze something, you could have just built the damn thing and seen if it worked in the real world. It’s better to just “Get on with it”; test less and see how it goes. This includes research. Do your best, but don’t get stuck in the mud.
Keep your designs low-mid fidelity
Keep the detail of your designs relatively low so you can iterate quickly. Don’t build prototypes in high fidelity unless the cost of building is astronomical. In other words, you are going to learn more by getting 3 mid-level iterations of a design in front of people than by making a high-fidelity single design.
The official launch should give a good impression. However, if you are unsure about the product and are in “learn mode”, then go into beta sooner. The key is to learn.
Most people have learning disabilities when it comes to software. It’s the human condition, I suppose, but when people are faced with a product that isn’t being received properly, they learn the wrong things. They think it’s good when it’s not, or think it’s bad when it’s not. I have seen this over and over. Especially executives who don’t know their ass from their elbow (that is a technical term) will have opinions and use any data to support their point of view.
In the end, there is no magic bullet. You do some research and make some guesses. You design and build and try to pivot along the way. I don’t want to over-analyze this. I just want to stop hearing that failure is a good thing. Learning is a good thing. Failure without learning sucks.