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Pablo Foncillas, Professor of Business Management at IESE-University of Navarra

Fail fast, fail smart, fix fast

Tue, 09 Apr 2013 11:46:00 +0000 Published in El Mundo de Valencia (Innovators)

One of the largest technology companies in the world in terms of market capitalization and one that has shown a significant upward trend in recent times, Google, has as its internal motto the one that occupies the headline of article. A technology-based company, where innovation must be part of its DNA in order to survive¿since it is the requirement of the category in which it competes¿can help us to reflect on innovation. Fall fast, fall smart and fix it fast. What does this mean? What can we learn?

First of all, they know they are going to have failures. And as such, the best thing to do is to turn the page quickly. In fact, in their corporate history, they have had some resounding failures (Google Answers or Google Videos). In other words, to innovate and succeed it is necessary to assume that you are going to suffer some setbacks. In turn, this implies two things: one, that moving quickly to the next stage does not mean that you should not understand and learn why you have fallen. Another, that whoever makes a mistake should have the peace of mind that they are not going to get their head cut off (at least not the first time). I remember the chief executive of an airline with thousands of employees explaining to me one day his vision of innovation: "I'm not worried about people who make mistakes. I'm worried about people who make the same mistake twice. It takes an attitude like that to be able to innovate.

Secondly, that with every mistake you have to think about how to take advantage of what you did not do right. That is to say, create some rules in advance to anticipate the possible fall and to understand what dimensions you have made a mistake about; have some fall protection barriers ready.

And third, concentrate on fixing what doesn't work as quickly as possible. Implicit in this third reflection is the idea of launching it on the market again as soon as possible and testing it again. Make it interactive, until it works or you end up discarding the product. In technology, and increasingly in many other industries, you don't have time to test like you used to. You have to go to market, make decisions, take risks. Innovation, although it may seem otherwise, does not rhyme with improvisation. Companies under strong innovation pressures, almost all of them nowadays, must be very clear about their motto to innovate. What is yours?