Fail Faster to Succeed Sooner

Fail faster, succeed soonerIn order to deliver the highest value possible at scale and velocity to the house of worship market, your AV firm will need to learn how to fail faster and succeed sooner.

‘Failing faster’ may seem counter-intuitive because the idea of failing evokes strong, negative emotional responses. And failure is often seen as something to be avoided, not accelerated. Yet research from Stanford, the University of Colorado, and Tel Aviv University all point to the value of learning from failing fast in rapidly changing markets such as the church market in the audiovisual space.

To succeed sooner, audiovisual (AV) firms will need to adopt a mindset that sees failure as merely the byproduct of good testing. But to do it faster, failure must no longer be something avoided to a positive checkmark in lessons learned and new theories validated.

To deliver greater value incrementally and consistently, firms in the AV industry need to be constantly pushing up against what they think they know by experimenting so vigorously and gathering feedback from church clients that the AV firm learns to love small failures.

Build a Culture of Small and Fast Failures

The phrase “fail fast,” means that AV businesses should undertake bold experiments to determine the long-term viability of a product or strategy rather than proceeding cautiously and investing years in a doomed approach. Taking a cue from the playbook of Agile for software development, fail fast means experimenting with small deliverables and checking the results quickly to learn which deliverables resulted in positive outcomes sooner (or at all).

By creating a culture of small, minimally viable products (deliverables) and testing quickly and often, it’s possible to find opportunities where velocity and demand intersect so that your firms learn effective strategies faster and creates better deliverables because every small failure represents a fact or insight uncovered. Instead of aiming for the next revolutionary or even evolutionary product, failing fast breaks down every aspect of what it means to go-to-market faster, from marketing to sales to product development to support and everywhere in between.

The house of worship market is widely varied in their venues and applications. As such, the AV technology for portable churches is different from fixed-venue churches with as much variation as mega churches (attendance > 2,000 per weekend) to small churches.

Failure Happens. Success Follows.

Some teams struggle to build this kind of culture because frequent tests take time and energy, often traded for the expediency of creating more of the same deliverables. To be sure, there is a tension to be managed when it comes to testing and actually executing on what those tests reveal. The principle at work in this kind of culture-building is revealed through deconstructing old behaviors focused on getting more stuff done to get better at delivering the right stuff, faster and changing the so-called ‘success scorecard’ from outputs to outcomes.

For those AV business leaders who are cynical about a “fail small, fail fast” culture, an article published in Think with Google in December of 2017 highlighted the value of testing and failing rapidly. “Our test success rate is about 10%, but we learn something from all our tests,” states Jesse Nichols, head of web app and app analytics at Nest (the automated thermostat manufacturer), who knows better than most that success comes from failing more than from succeeding.

Similarly, AV manufacturers and AV dealers should experiment with both existing client bases through feedback surveys as well as testing the viability of new products and services with new church leads.

The AV industry, as a whole, isn’t afraid to try new ideas and bring them to the market. However, what is needed is not the next good idea, but to not stop at the first good idea and work towards truly great ideas.

In his bookSix Thinking Hats,” Edward DeBono, a world-renowned physician, psychologist, author, and inventor, created a method for creative group brainstorming involving six colored hats. His “Six Thinking Hats” provides a means for groups to brainstorm in a detailed and cohesive way, and in doing so for a team to think together more effectively. In a nutshell, this tool helps eliminate the common failure points of brainstorming. The “hats,” metaphorically worn by group participants, aid individuals in addressing problems from a variety of angles, and focusing individuals on how they approach problem-solving. In this way, a “bad idea” isn’t shot down because such an idea often leads to new thinking and a better solution. A “good idea” is realized precisely because the “bad idea” spawned divergent thinking.

Failure isn’t final, but it is crucial for sustained success.

Though DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats is a helpful tool for any team, the principle of learning from mistakes or bad ideas is ultimately more valuable than the simplified approach of testing merely the first good idea. Failure isn’t final, but it is crucial for sustained success.

How to Get Better at Failing

To help lead your teams to objectively consider how to apply these principles, ask these questions:

“Are our teams judged more by what doesn’t work or by what does work?”

“How can we create more minimally viable deliverables to test the validity of our assumptions about the value of our complex, time-consuming deliverables so that our big efforts yield better results?”

“Do we need to put a better team brainstorming process in place to keep from stopping ourselves at the first good idea?”

“What threshold can we, or our leaders, accept as a good ‘failure rate?’”

Every AV manufacturing team faces the challenge of producing better results for the business. Hands down, the best way to do that is to build a sustainable, fast process for testing theories and building the systems to iterate quickly and measure results for comparison.

The question isn’t if your AV firm needs to test new products more frequently, but how you and your teams can create small, minimally viable deliverables faster, test quickly and often and create better deliverables and not merely more deliverables.

We will never get away from needing to create big, complex deliverables and manage those projects through to completion. We can, however, do a far better job at testing the components of these large projects along the way to deliver better results. The house of worship market — and many other vertical markets — would both benefit from the new solutions and be willing to buy when the offering is better aligned with the unique needs of churches.

Could your AV firm delivery greater value by learning how to fail faster and succeed sooner?

Comment below.