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Grow Products by Learning to Fail a Little Better and a Little Faster

Postado por Guilherme Sá em 02/05/2014

Who do you know that is willing to acknowledge failure and memorize it? When have you last reflected about the costs of failing?

As we build products and retrospect about improvements, our thoughts lead to decisions that can vary from negative to just outright weird. As a creator, you cannot develop the right product for your client if you fall in love with a prototype that nobody wants to buy. That’s a common situation, but it's the wrong way to fail. Don’t worry about building a perfect app, or the perfect design, or having the perfect process. Just improve these and other aspects of your project continuously. But reading this post alone won't be enough. Often development can get costly since users are so unpredictable. You'll have to enjoy digging deep within your failed experiences and question your beliefs.

Get your inner ideas about failures out of limbo. Retrospect for a day about your project, and then wait. After you digest it, you’ll have new ideas. While doing it, do not be afraid to think about those costly project expenses you had, or the embarrassing moments you’ve put yourself through during your journey.

If you're doing this right, you should be thinking about things that didn't turn out exactly how you've expected. Constantly ask yourself how much did it cost you to fail.

If you find that you’re penalizing yourself too much for personal failings and suddenly get stupid negative thoughts roaming around, that’s ok. Classify and memorize these failings.

Learn to safely ignore wrong thoughts by intentionally exposing mistakes to friends and coworkers. This can serve as a mechanism so that failures don’t jump to or stay in limbo. This type of stuff happens all the time when we work collectively as well, so to solve this, you can implement retrospective meetings at work.

If your intentions are good and you're truly passionate about improving what’s around you, than stressing about unhealthy thoughts ruling the mind is not necessary. If you're stressing, retrospect with a friend or a coworker. I don’t know about you, but I would rather expose my failings early on and take an “I-care-where-this-leads-me-years-from-now” approach, rather than ignoring a ticking time bomb.

Finally, manage your friends and families' expectations if they challenge the success of a work in progress. They often don't understand the complexities of trying to launch products. Educate them will.

Start taking notes on failures that turn into hidden weaknesses. Being willing to look in the mirror and recognizing this stuff is very important for us to become better change-makers, creators or entrepreneurs (better human beings). Here's how...


Preferably do this exercise with somebody else, biweekly. If it’s your first time, forget about the obvious stuff you should be doing (read: customer development), like reaching out to your current customers and writing a simple interview script to get their feedback via a 5-minute Skype call. Also, forget about new or exiting features for a second.

  • Write or explain to someone, in general terms, how it's been like to develop your product so far. Don't be afraid in case things slip off your mind, just write them down later as they come to you.

  • In a few words, using Post-it, write down moments, actions or events that relates to the failures in your journey. You should be writing down positive stuff and stuff that needs improvement. Use your gut and start thinking about breaking it down. That's the purpose here.

  • Present the Post-its to friends, a coworker, or a co-founder, or personally review each Post-it out loud. If there’s a fix or a new belief, present the solution or belief for each Post-it.

  • Review all Post-its that need improvement. For each, define an action, a new principle or method, and respect it. Test it for 14 days.

Take a stab at it and ask yourself how you can learn from your experience.

Producing good ideas requires that we do intellectual work. Retrospection can simplify. When you need a little motivation to get this stuff going, do it in group or with somebody who's also invested in your project. Good luck!


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