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May 22, 2008

Seeking Out Failure

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Tamar Weinberg pointed me to a great article from PC World that takes a look at the Top 10 Google flubs, flops and failures, referencing products and ventures like Google X, Google Catalog, Google Web Accelerator and Google Coupons, among others. Basically, it’s a collection of some of the best Google failures that you don’t remember because you’re too busy thinking how awesome and innovative Google is.

The article is a good kick in the pants for stagnate companies too paralyzed by fear to act. Google didn’t get to where it is by not innovating, not trying new things, not experimenting, so why are you? Why are you letting your fear of failure stop you from going from “just okay” to “absolutely mind-numbingly amazing”? I think it’s time you stop.

I’m not trying to get you to ignite your company in a blaze of fail or hold on to ideas that you’d be better off forgetting, but don’t be afraid of these things either. Often companies are so afraid of bad press or losing customers that they allow themselves to continue along the same path into mediocrity. You don’t have to run your business that way.

How many times have you NOT been allowed to do something because your boss was afraid of how it would look? You can’t run that ad because it’s too alarming. You can’t write that blog post because no one else would say that. You can’t launch that new program because it may backfire. Forget it.

Customers will forgive failure if you show them you’re out there innovating, trying new things, and attempting to make yourself even better and more useful than before. It’s certainly worked for Google. Look at the products they’ve thrown out just to see if they’d stick. Plenty of them have failed, but we don’t talk about those. We talk about how great their Web search is, how strong their advertising platform is, etc. Why? Because that’s the branding they’ve created. Google is the company that will throw out ten products and only have two of them stick. But the two that stick, will change the landscape forever. That’s what you want to be – revolutionary.

Take the Google mindset and run with it.

Are you working to integrate video into your site? Ask yourself WWGD? Don’t immediately jump to short 60 second videos just because that’s been set as the standard. People gave Shel Israel a hard time when he began creating long video. And yes, that video failed, but it wasn’t because of the length, it was because the content and the delivery. Shel failed. But he’ll learn from that failure and create stronger videos in the future. [Failure’s good so long as you don’t let it stop you. All you’ve got to do is let go of the past and keep moving forward. –Susan] I like you so much more now that you’ve posted that clip.

Have a great idea for a product that you’ve been keeping under lock and key because you’re not sure how people will react? Launch it! Give it just enough time to sink or swim, and if it sinks, take it away. And when you launch it, stand behind it. Companies are really good at throwing things out there and backing down if the audience shows some opposition. Don’t. Take a stand.

Never let the fear of failure stop you from doing something you would have done otherwise. It’s okay to fail, as long as you do it all the way and in a spectacular fashion. Stop whining and be daring, with everything.

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One response to “Seeking Out Failure”

  1. Matt Cutts writes:

    The funny thing is that I look at that list of “failures” and see several projects that I consider very successful for various reasons. Even when a project fails, you often learn some really useful lessons.



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