The digital evolution has brought many successes, but also requires the need for enterprises to be resilient in failure. The concept of ‘fail fast’ may be difficult to accept, yet there are many positives to this approach. ‘Fail fast’ has been utilized in start-ups and software development for years. It means the practice of conducting quick, cheap experiments to gain invaluable insights to hypotheses in order to rethink, close the loop and ultimately “pivot” or change course based on integrating the new lessons into the model.
This practice has been adopted by companies such as Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Etsy. According to Accenture’s Technology Vision report, the rationale to adopt this fail fast approach is simple: "As organizations migrate toward digital, every aspect of their business is becoming increasingly interconnected and automated…True resilience is what will help organizations mitigate risks to revenue and brand reputation caused by service disruptions."
Netflix has grown from nothing to servicing over 50 million members in 40 countries. One of the most successful websites in the world, Netflix achieved this success by using a fast iterative design approach. In the company’s early stages, the web design team would make significant design changes every 2 weeks. They understand that some of the changes will work, but most won't. Much of what they do try doesn't survive to the next iteration.
At first, this sounds like a frustrating design constraint. However, the design team didn’t feel frustrated. Instead, they were free to be flexible and adaptive, so they could react effectively to customer needs. They're building for the present all the time.
Two recent product pullbacks introduced by Amazon were recognized as failures quickly. Amazon shut down its private-label diaper product (only six weeks after launch) and withdrew its mobile wallet (six months after a prominent rollout).
Amazon acknowledged the failures through a released statement saying they learned a great deal from the beta programs and the company will look for ways to apply these lessons in the future as they continue to innovate on behalf of their customers.
Failure isn’t just an option, it’s practically a requirement at Google. AdSense and Google Answers were both uncharted territory for the company. While AdSense grew to be a multi-billion-dollar business, Google Answers (which let users post questions and pay an expert for the answer) was retired after four years. Google learned a lot in that time, and were able to apply the knowledge they had gathered to the development of future products. If Google had been afraid to fail, they never would have tried Google Answers or AdSense, and missed an opportunity with each one.
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'Moving fast enables us to build more things and learn faster. However, as most companies grow, they slow down too much because they’re more afraid of making mistakes than they are of losing opportunities by moving too slowly. We have a saying: “Move fast and break things.” The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough' – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook