Fail Fast or Quit?

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I've been traveling a lot lately--and while it can get tiring, it also presents a great opportunity to catch up on my reading list. As I was running out of the office on a recent trip, I snagged Seth Godin's The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) for a light "on-the-plane" read.

Books that can keep me focused for short bursts of time are usually winners for me--and probably others, too, as the latest trend in business books is to keep them short and sweet. Godin delivers on that promise with his little gem.

The Summary:
True winners not only know how to win--they also know how and when to quit. When the going gets tough it's important to ask yourself if you have the skills to be the world's best. If the answer to that question is no, that's okay--just quit. Why? Because winners don't become winners by slogging around finishing 3rd place in something they aren't good at.

So how do you know when to quit? Godin points out that it's where the dip is. Every effort that is worth something requires a struggle--even the best will be challenged. The key is to identify areas where you aren't particularly "special" and then cut your losses in that area--otherwise, you'll get stuck wading in the dip without ever doing something remarkable. This concept of the dip--and how to avoid it--can be applied to your personal life, your career, your business, etc.

At ZURB, we have a similar concept that we call "fail fast". I actually like our concept better to describe "getting to a wrong answer". Fail fast is about learning to rapidly iterate through tests.

Failing is never fun, but it's bound to happen at some point. And if you have to fail, failing fast is truly the only way to do it. Think about it like this--if you've got an idea you're trying and, you don't yet realize that the idea sucks and just won't work, is it better to spend hours of time and gobs of money trying to perfect the bad idea that you don't realize is bad, or does it make more sense to get it implemented quickly enough to give it a 'reality check' in the real world? Exactly.

After all, if your idea ends up being a really good one that works well, you'll have implemented it so fast that you might have time to leave the office early and go grab a beer during happy hour at the bar down the street--and we hear they have some kick @$$ half-price chicken nachos on Thursday afternoons...

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It has 4 comments.

Mike Coker (ZURB) says

I look forward to reading the book, thanks for the tip! I've certainly had my share of fail fast projects, as a designer many of the ideas that I create fail to get past the sketch stage, while on the other hand, I have been known to beat a business to death before letting it go (or near to death while a client uses every inch they can get - as the case may be). If its not working, let it go or re-manage it, into another project. Many times I've had business ventures that had the right people but not the right concept - solution where possible - is to merge, keep the key people, and build a new concept. We are having a 'reality check' on a number of projects in December, will see how things pan out after that... Thanks, Mike

Bryan (ZURB) says

Mike- timing is always an issue and people are core to every great venture, but unfortunately getting both of them right doesn't guarantee success. Let us know how things work out!

hedgefund intelligence (ZURB) says

Hello i just stopped by your site and thought i would say hello.

antique bottle soda (ZURB) says

Whats Up myself couldnt agree more, myself, but not everyone is as clever as you seem to be. Or as myself seem to be! HA! :-p Please email me if you are interested