So much of our gains in life are based on trial and error. We’re flooded will hacks, tips, best practices and processes, but we tend to forget that about giving ourselves the time to truly try things and experiment. The leading companies today, didn’t create their success by just follow the examples of other great minds, they experimented, failed, learned and refined over many years and decades.
“Beneficial failure, the kind that teaches you along the way, requires a trial-and-error approach, where you make small, increasingly informed bets until you’ve learned enough to seize a larger opportunity.”
The real reason that we don’t engage in trial and error experimentation is that we’re risk averse, and we don’t want to feel the pangs of embarrassment if our experiment fails. We’re all secretly scared that one mistake could end all our hard work over the years. This can’t happen if we make small bets, incrementally, that are based on research and intuition.
Let’s remember that most scientific experiments are failures. They don’t prove what they set out to prove. But, the process of trying, failing and revising is a vital learning experience that we can’t get any other way.
Failure tells us 5 things:
Where we need more experience
Where we need more knowledge
How resilient we are
The areas where we need growth
Whether we’re focusing on the right things
Failures are the necessary stepping stones that help us refine our vision and grow. And, we can’t learn from failure if we never take the time to engage in calculated risks – aka, experimentation through trial and error.
When we’re impatiently trying to get things done, we’re slowly self-sabotaging our future success. We can spot our impatience when we adopt a take it or leave it mentality, partnerships become strained, we’re focusing on getting things done instead of focusing on how well they were done, and our levels of stress and anxiety increase.
Patience is a business virtue
When Amazon started in 1994, they had to compete against Ebay. Customers preferred Ebay because of their simple layout and single purpose platform for online auctions. Amazon, was just an online book store in the early days – so it took them time, effort and calculated experimentation to break out of that mold. Amazon started experimenting; they tried out methods that their competitors were using – some worked, while others failed. This process of experimentation through trial and error took 20 years to produce the multibillion-dollar Amazon that we know today. The feedback from the experiments told them where to focus their energy for the most amount of gains – and they haven’t stopped experimenting and trialing things since.
“Innovation requires experimentation and constant iteration, and often a tremendous amount of time. If new businesses are judged quarter to quarter, some will definitely fail, and be thrown out. Patience and persistence are required in innovation.”
Lauren Eve Cantor
How to try, fail and learn patiently
Engage in small experiments early
You want to disprove your bad ideas as early as possible. Take on experiments that will show you where all the potholes are in your business. This is really helpful early on, because it lets you drop all the baggage that you’ve carried with you – we all have preconceived notions, biases and assumptions, and they need a dose of reality be being put to the test early on.
Experiments must be simple and cheap
Don’t try and redefine the entire industry with your experiment. You’re not trying to be an investigative journalist who’s blowing the lid off a juicy scandal. Make sure that your experiments are simple – meaning that they are only tracking one or 2 things, and they are cheap – low costs for time, energy, money and resources.
Experiments must be frequent
There’s no magic pill or insider secret that tells us how to start and run a successful business. But, there is a foolproof process that ensures we’re constantly growing. That process is simply to try and fail on small scales, faster and more often. This is the real world test which lets the market tell you exactly what they like and what they don’t.