Failure, Innovation & Getting Comfy with Risk

October 2, 2017

Elon Musk and his SpaceX team released a fabulously funny blooper reel this week chronicling the failures they've encountered landing their orbital rocket safely back on earth.  I especially love the subtitles…check it out here (How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster).

What does this teach us? For those driving change and innovation (or just advocating for it), I think it screams this:

In order to achieve big, we must FIRST experience failure

Sure failure is bad and expensive and when it's in front of customers (or the world), its embarrassing.  I don’t want to celebrate failure OR make light of the impact it can have on  mission critical businesses (say, like with manned space travel). But failure is just a necessary risk if you're going to truly achieve great things.



My typical interaction with those considering technological change, especially those who are industry veterans, is to advocate 'slow, controlled' iterations. All too often, in this scenario, fear and risk rule the day.  

As Elon's ventures have repeatedly demonstrated, this approach is doomed to succumb to a far slower and more costly death. Sure SpaceX spent millions failing 10 times to land a rocket over a few years.  But in June, they succeeded.  Twice in 48 hours!

If you’re not landing rockets back on earth, hopefully this provides some context when considering 10x technological or digitzation projects.

The greater risk may be from NOT trying.


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