One of the lessons I so wish they would have taught me in college, when I was getting my bus degree, is how to fail. It is like when you are teaching a child how to ride a bike - it is critical to teach them how to use the brakes and how to fall off the bike and not totally turn into scrapes and cuts.
The classic mindset of any project - a business, a program, a faith community, a movement even -
is to try to get the plan 95% right before taking
action. This is great in theory, but it rarely works. Why? Because as
soon as you hit the first major milestone, you immediately recognize the first wave of fatal flaws.
By then, it's often too late to change pretty much anything - you've run out of time of money or patience or people.
The alternative is to get your idea about 50% right, then let people involved tell you what your mistakes are. Listen, learn, get it 50% right, and put your idea through the process again. Keep at it until enough people say, "Wow!" Instead of debating options internally, you'll be making your idea real, taking it to people, and learning as it fails.
I am not encouraging you to fail. Rather, I am stating the fundamental truth that we can't know the answers before we start. It's foolish to assume anyone knows things that it's not possible to know.
We preach to our children the need to pick themselves up and try again and again when they fail. But we rarely live by our own preaching, continuing to view failure as a statement of our self-worth. And while we may complain about how long it takes to move ideas through our companies, we inspect and edit with gusto whenever a new idea passes through our email or work/church/civic team or clan of friends.
I don't just promote the virtues of failing fast and cheap; I do it myself. Over the years I've failed fast and cheap in start-ups, ginormous companies, non-profits & faith communities - at countless trade shows, in stores, in conference rooms, and in people's homes. The math of fail fast and fail cheap is simple. If it takes six months and $100,000 to take a product from idea to customer reaction, then at best you'll get two cycles in a year. However, if you can do a complete cycle of learning in a week for $1,000, you can get 52 cycles in a year at about half the cost.
The only barrier to failing fast and failing cheap is our ego. We must be willing to fail, fail, and fail again - remember, even if you're falling flat on your face, at least you're still moving forward.