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"Being wrong is a feature, not a bug"

A thoughtful piece from Michael Nielsen on the disruption of the scientific publishing industry includes a lot that’s very relevant to other publishers and media companies. For example:

In conversations with editors I repeatedly encounter the same pattern: “But idea X won’t work / shouldn’t be allowed / is bad because of Y.” Well, okay. So what? If you’re right, you’ll be intellectually vindicated, and can take a bow. If you’re wrong, your company may not exist in ten years. Whether you’re right or not is not the point. When new technologies are being developed, the organizations that win are those that aggressively take risks, put visionary technologists in key decision-making positions, attain a deep organizational mastery of the relevant technologies, and, in most cases, make a lot of mistakes. Being wrong is a feature, not a bug, if it helps you evolve a model that works: you start out with an idea that’s just plain wrong, but that contains the seed of a better idea.

Around here we like to say “fail forward fast,” and it’s an acknowledgement that we will learn much more by trying and doing (and probably failing) than by planning. The real challenge with that is to make those experiments as cheap (financially and otherwise) as possible.

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  • http://www.cabi.org David

    Hi Andrew,

    Would you care to write something on the principles of “Fail forward Fast”. Many (most) companies struggle with this idea, even if nice words are sometimes spoken and they are even open to the idea. I’m curious as to how you control the risk of this approach and also the cultural aspects that have to be in place to have an approach like this be at the core of how you get things done.

  • http://toc.oreilly.com Andrew Savikas

    @David,

    This post is mostly about technology companies, but is still a useful overview.