Experiments: Fail Fast, Fail Early


Experiments with dogs in boats; Finch goes boating!


Experiment: Fail Fast, Fail Early

Recently I was reminded about the importance of running experiments, not being attached to the outcome, and being willing to fail fast and fail early. Let me explain with an example from my dating life.

A few weeks ago an attractive man approached me and we chatted and exchanged business cards. When I got home that evening he had already emailed me, a good sign! We traded emails and set a date for coffee a week away. A few emails were traded during the week, and we developed a warm rapport. The day of our coffee date came, and meeting was a bit awkward; after all, we’d never really spent time together. I let it slide that we were off to a slow start, knowing that for me conversation comes more easily when I know the person, and maybe the same was true for him.

We had coffee, went for a walk, and shared a quick bite. During that time I was intrigued yet also uncertain, so when we parted ways and talked about getting together again soon, I decided to have another date to sort out what was what. The next day we talked, got together for literally 5 minutes, and that was it – I knew for sure we weren’t a match. Done: in 24 hours, with one week lead time, the answer was obvious. We don’t often think things can be sorted out that fast, yet they can, in your dating life, as well as your business.

The key is to set things up as experiments – for instance, a certain amount of time, energy, or money invested in trying something out so you can measure the progress. At the end of the experiment, evaluate how things went and put the results into the Hell Yes or Hell No bucket. Then tweak and repeat as necessary until you get the results you’re satisfied with.



Here are two examples, both true stories:

Date Experiment
Experiment: Go on a date.
Parameters for the experiment: Male, age appropriate, intriguing. 1-2 dates to see what’s what.
Pass / Fail: If it’s not a Hell Yes, it’s a Hell No.
Outcome: 1 official date and 1 partial date = no match. Time to move on.

Business Experiment
Experiment: Pick a target market.
Parameters for experiment: Target lawyers who are dissatisfied with their work and may want to switch careers.
Pass / Fail: If it’s not a Hell Yes, it’s a Hell No. There is no Hell Maybe.
Outcome: Spent two months talking with lawyers about their work, what they did and didn’t like. Noticed although many are unsatisfied, most aren’t at the point of making a change. Decide to not focus on lawyers and pick a different target market.

Being willing to experiment and fail is one of the quickest ways to succeed. Run experiments, fail fast, fail early, and keep going!


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