The wonderful Change This has a good presentation by Peter Sims, entitled “Little Bets: Think Differently“, which is largely about entrepreneurship and finding your idea and business model. He starts of with some good examples, e.g.: Google didn’t begin with a brilliant vision, but as a project to improve library searches, followed by a series of small discoveries that unlocked a revolutionary business model. Larry Page and Sergei Brin did not begin with an ingenious idea. But they certainly discovered one.
Examples rock and this makes it clear that a lot of building a company is luck, but as they say, you can only stumble if you’re walking and… you need to iterate. I love his example of Starbucks, which started out as with an italian coffee shop model (good), including no chairs, menues in italian and constant opera music (bad ;)).
The important thing for this kind of iterative innovation is:
Experimental innovators must be persistent and willing to accept failure and setbacks as they work iteratively toward their goals.
He suggests to flip the switch, saying to change the matra “from expected gains to affordable losses”. As Jeff Bezos seems to have said: “You can’t put into a spreadsheet how people are going to behave around a new product.”
That really means you need to look at failure differently, and this is hard. You need to see failure as something that innovation and creativity comes from. Sadly, this is just not in our normal DNA. Hunting deer and failing to kill one will not make you go home to your tribe and say “Boy I missed, go creativity.”
What I find interesting is that you read about stuff like this again and again, but still many people are not following it with their heart. Kevin Rose tried it with Milk but then got bought by Google and is now planting many seeds as investor at Google Ventures.
Take this quote from Thomas A. Edison: Results! Why man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work.
There are also lots of tools to help you get your creative juices flowing and I have an entire book about them, but you need the basic company culture to really make it happen. And you also need a rough but basic vision of where you want to go, because only that will allow you to have the stamina and funding to go through lots of small dips and see them as opportunities. This commitment to an idea that is not proven yet, is what is really rare.
Now go create and don’t give us so easily.
Failure is not to be feared. It is from failure that most growth comes; privided that one can recognize it, admit it, learn from it, rise above it, and try again. – Dee Hock