On Friday I will talk to a group of German students about failure. Failure is a funny beast — in my home country Germany and many other European countries failure still comes with massive stigma attached. Failure is something which has to be avoided at all costs. Failing is not an option. Fail once and “you’re done”.
This is such a crazy, wrong view of the world. Arguably you can not invent anything if you don’t allow for failure. Mankind would have never evolved from cave dwellings to modern society if we wouldn’t have taken massive risks along the way and have failed much more often than not. Progress is impossible without failure and risk taking.
When I ran Mozilla Labs we were tasked with exploring and experimenting on the fringes of the Web. By most measures we were successful — quite a few of our experiments ended up in production or influenced existing and new products. I would argue that in some ways we failed miserably. Our failure rate was by far not high enough — which to me is an indicator that we didn’t try hard enough; we didn’t venture out far enough, working on the edge of the edge.
So fail often, fail fast and fail forward. And ignore the critics — as critics never built anything.