The Failure Manifesto and Why it is Hurting Your Business

business failure

How many times have you led a business failure?

Do you have to experience catastrophic failure to be successful?

If I fail more than you, will I ultimately be more successful than you?

These are some of the questions and topics creeping into the blogosphere over the past few years as the notion of failure seems to take on an almost romantic quality. I find this strange.  As an entrepreneur, I want to do everything I can to AVOID failure.

Sure, if you are trying something new, you are bound to fail. I fail in some way every single day. But I never want to fail in a way that prevents me from getting back up again.  And yet, I have this feeling that if you’ve never been part of an entrepreneurial wipeout, you’re not considered “legit” these days. There seems to be a growing acceptance of The Failure Manifesto.

My podcast partner Tom Webster and I explore this interesting idea on the latest episode of The Marketing Companion. I really think you’ll like this edition, as we explore:

  • The romance of catastrophic business failure
  • Why Seth Godin’s “Just Ship It” mentality leads to problems
  • The true source of business innovation and progress
  • The untold side of the Apple story and survivor bias
  • The strategy paradox –why we don’t learn from failures
  • Why you can’t be Zappos
  • Is technology an enabler or a leveler of business innovation?

Do you need to be “all in” to be successful in business today?  I hope you’ll listen to the podcast and tell us what you think!

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  • Mark Harai

    Hi, Mark and Tom!

    I loved this discussion, thank you, both…

    Early in my business career I read somewhere that on average, self-made millionaires make and lose their fortunes on average of 3 times during the course of their careers.

    And on average, they didn’t actually start keeping and increasing their wealth until they were in their late forties, early fifties…

    It make sense to me now. A human-being looks at money so much differently at age 20/30 then they do at 50/60.

    If you’re fortunate enough to have the ability to make lage sums of money early on in life, eventually you’ll learn and have an appreciation for money and learn how to manage it properly so you can keep it.

    Today, your life and the air you breathe may be gone tomorrow. The only day you have to make your dreams and vision come to pass is today.

    I say this to say that in 47 years on this planet, I have never met an ultra-successful person achieve their full potential in anything without an “All-In” mindset.

    They lived and breathed their purpose on purpose daily.

    They were called dreamers and scoffed at daily by their friends and family for the big visions they had for changing the world.

    Then one day, the world woke up in their dream and it became everybody else’s reality.

    It’s the only mindset that leads to greatness and changing the world

    ANY other mindset will always lead to average at best.

    Average isn’t bad, I’m just saying…

  • Laura Rivera

    I sometimes wonder if the “failure manifesto” is an over correction of the philosophy that has lead us to give to youngsters trophies not just for winning, but for participation and just showing up. We’ve taught young people the lie, “you’re just as good as me.” They don’t know HOW to processes losing or failure. They don’t yet understand that you can “show up” and have things go wrong.

  • Laura Rivera

    I sometimes wonder if the “failure manifesto” is an over correction of the philosophy that has lead us to give to youngsters trophies not just for winning, but for participation and just showing up. We’ve taught young people the lie, “you’re just as good as me.” They don’t know HOW to processes losing or failure. They don’t yet understand that you can “show up” and have things go wrong.

    Nice discussion!

  • A fun and interesting discussion. My dad, a high school graduate, had two businesses go bust before he was successful. But he always told us that he had to learn from his mistakes to go forward. Lots of young people would come to him for advice when their businesses got in trouble, but very few of them actually followed his advice. No one is immune to failure. Things happen, but I sure don’t want to embrace it. It sucks. (wry grin)

  • I haven’t listened yet, but I think you are spot on in your intro here. Yes, failure is become a strange topic. While I agree that fear of failure can be debilitating, and embracing change, and the potential for failure that comes with it, is important, that message has become sorely twisted.

    Looking forward to having the time to listen!

  • Muhammad Saad Khan

    WOAH…..Tom has a “Broadcasters Voice” and i hope all the community members will surely agree with me on this..right?

    Well my catch phrase was, “Don’t Just Ship it, Just Be Excellent at What You Do in Anyway You Can Be”.

  • Thanks for the very thoughtful dissent Mark. Very well done my friend. Thank you!

  • Thanks very much for contributing to the discussion Laura!

  • Thanks for adding your perspective Pauline.

  • That is the way to go! Be excellent. Thanks friend!

  • Peter Drucker and the Toyota Production System mentioned in the podcast, what could possible go wrong? 🙂

    I was left wondering about the alternatives to “just ship it”. You made TPS sound like everything is fine-tuned time and again before releasing a product to the market, but I don’t think that is necessarily the case. In many ways, at Toyota, it is, but that is because they are in a mass market where the transfer from R&D to production is a huge milestone.

    However, in the daily continuous improvement work, kaizen, Toyota displays a fair amount of bias for action: problems are analyzed, alternative solutions are charted, and then one is selected for experimentation (Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle). This could also be a suitable model for product/service delivery in cases where it is easy to make changes to the product. It is a sort of middle ground, because there is an analysis phase before experimentation, but not everything is analyzed in great detail before any action is taken.

  • This is a complex and nuanced topic. Probably best discussed over a cold beverage instead of a blog comment. : ) I agree with you and I’m not saying we should not have a bias for action. If you do not have a bias for action you will wither and die on the social web.

    My fear with the just ship it mentality is that there is some entrepreneur out there who takes a short cut on a product that ultimately jeopardizes her success because she thought she should ship it instead of respecting the customer and getting it right. In this day and age, one iota of bad buzz on a new product probably dooms it. Thanks for the discussion!

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  • rhonda hurwitz

    But Mark, perfectionists DO have to just ship it … or we have a natural inclination to keep perfecting. Getting a market reaction to our work would have much more value.

    I think when Seth talks about this, it’s in the context of conquering inertia or fear of committing. For me … reading one more article, or doing one more round of research, sounds virtuous, but timeliness would be better.

    maybe just ship it plus iteration is a better model when it avoids a bigger fail, which for a perfectionist, is doing nothing.

    PS Your reaction to the Jersey Shore was hysterical. natural beauty in NJ … who’d have thunk it?!

  • I am “all in…business today” learning from Tom, and you by listening to your outstanding conversation!.

    Adaptation is the business manifesto for survival….

    Kudos to you both for bringing your experiential knowledge with such awesome care, and commitment ~Rae

  • Monica MillerRodgers

    Very interesting discussion, Mark and Tom. I believe, though, it’s not an aim to fail or failure brings about some kind of street cred. I think more people are just starting to overcome the fear of failure, and they are taking the plunge into business knowing and believing that if they do fail, it’s not over. There is success and life after a failure. Maybe this thinking is like a safety net, knowing that you can reemerge after you go down.

  • Thanks Eric!

  • I do get what Seth is saying and actually think he is right but he writes in sound bites and people absorb in sound bites and I continually hear this advice mis-interpreted. Just not smart business in many cases but I 100% agree with your point.

    And I am already a huge Jersey fan. I love the state but had never been to the shore before! : )

  • Delighted to have you listen in. It is so much fun doing these podcasts!

  • Thanks very much for adding your perspective Monica.

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  • Ross Quintana

    I really enjoyed this one. I agree the idea of just ship it is not universal in business. I love how you guys forced the conversation back to solid business strategy. I have found wisdom is usually in the balance not the extremes.

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