Failing fast and the secret to productive innovation


What do the world’s most talked-about and admired companies – Apple,, Tesla, Google and Facebook – all have in common?

The answer is more obvious than you might think – they are all risk takers, organisations helmed by adventurous leaders who embody the age old theory that there is no such thing as success without risk in the business world.

According to StrategyBlocks Director Craig Catley, businesses today cannot afford to sit back and play it safe if they wish to remain competitive.

“People can either implement a new idea, or they can do nothing. Our view is that it is far more important to be trying to put in place some sort of strategic activity than to opt for the ‘do-nothing’ option and just wait and see what happens. Because, inevitably, the wait and see option in business always turns into going backwards,” explains Mr Catley.

However, with innovation comes the risk of failure. Inevitably, any business that is investing time and money into new processes, products and strategies is eventually going to hit a roadblock or a dead end. So while it is undoubtedly better to try something than to try nothing, Mr Catley also stresses the fact that it is better to ‘fail fast’ than it is to ‘fail slow’.

“The advantage of failing quickly is that we can at least cross one thing off the list, hopefully while controlling the amount of expenditure in terms of money and resources,” he explains. “This is opposed to failing slowly, which is the worst case scenario, in which we keep piling time and people into an initiative that is going to fail in the long term anyway.”

‘Failing fast’ is not a new concept. However, it is one that is becoming increasingly relevant in the modern, highly-competitive business environment, where the margin for error when deploying business initiatives is growing ever smaller.

So what can organisations do, strategy-wise, in order to ensure they are failing efficiently?

Failing fast through effective strategic planning 

The key to effective failure, so to speak, lies in understanding the tell-tale indicators that allow a business to identify when an initiative is not working. Mr Catley has named four key areas which business leaders need to monitor in order to determine whether to continue or pull the plug on new or unproven strategies.

These are Practical Activity – the actual work and physical effort and labour being put into the initiative – Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Metrics, the Potential for Risk – both internal and external – and the Financial Value – how much the organisation stands to gain or lose.

While these four variables may seem, on the surface, to be fairly straightforward to analyse and measure, the problem is that the majority of organisations today are reviewing these factors manually and individually. This prevents decision makers from taking a holistic view of any project, and making smart strategic decisions as a result.

“There’s so much manual process involved that a senior manager can’t sit back and look at a whole enterprise on a single page, and look at the health of their strategic execution, and quickly be able to drill into those key areas,” said Mr Catley.

Fortunately, there is an answer to this dilemma. StrategyBlocks is a sophisticated strategic planning tool that can enable decision makers to dashboard these various factors and comprehensively measure the success or failure of any business initiative.

As a result, StrategyBlocks users can make strategic decisions on a real-time basis, rather than weeks or even months down the track, mitigating the cost of any failed innovation or initiative. Not only does this free your organisation to take more calculated risks, but it ensures that even when those risks do not pay off, the consequences are minimised.

TS Elliot once said that “only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”, and this is true of your business as well. With StrategyBlocks, you’ll be free to explore your opportunities, without the risk of walking too far in the wrong direction.