In many ways, failure is an almost inevitable step towards success.  Many of the most successful people in life are also the people who have failed the most.  The key, though, is to fail in the right place, to fail well, and to recover.

The idea of failing in the right place, though, is not something I often hear about.

So, how can you fail in the right place?  Or, better yet, what does Bryan mean when he says “fail in the right place?”

Well, as I see it, there are three places where a person or an organization can fail: Ideation, Development, or Implementation. Failure in each of these places is possible and it’s also possible to recover, but failure in the right place reduces the time and resources invested, creates an easier recovery, and makes us look smarter in front of our friends.


One of the keys to ideation and innovation is brainstorming.  Bringing any crazy idea to the table.  Ideas that might work.  Ideas that won’t work.  Ideas that might almost work.  Ideas the world isn’t ready for yet.  Even things that have been done before.

For example, if you were concerned about how much fuel is consumed by cars and were working on a solution and you were like me, your (crazy) contribution to the discussion might be What about Leprechaun-powered cars?

But further down in ideation, we also have to filter and evaluate those ideas.  The key, though, is to get all of those crazy ideas on the table so they can be evaluated, filtered, adjusted, or discarded.  In other words, get the ideas out there so you can fail quickly.

  • That’s silly, Leprechauns aren’t real.
  • Stop giving us crazy ideas, Bryan.

Ideation is one of the best places to fail.


Of course, not every idea fails in implementation.  If your team is made up of five-year-olds, you might be able to get the idea of Leprechaun-powered cars past them (maybe not, though).  And, if so, it might fail in development.

Research & Development:

  • It turns out Leprechauns are not very strong, the cars will be underpowered.
  • We can’t make the engine compartment the right size.
  • A green-powered car is great but Leprechauns are toxic.


  • We don’t know where to get Leprechauns.  Are they manufactured or grown?
  • Leprechauns are much more expensive than we thought.  We need a cheaper alternative.


  • The Leprechaun union is unreasonable.  They demand breaks every three minutes.
  • We’re afraid Leprechaun-powered cars might explode.


  • Leprechauns are mean and selfish.  We don’t want that to hurt our image.
  • We like the idea of a green car but it’s not been well-received by our market studies.
  • Leprechauns smell bad.  We don’t think that will be well received.

Development is a good, practical place to fail. It’s more expensive but it’s also where failures are often turned into successes.


The most costly place to fail is in implementation.  It’s where we fail to deliver.  It’s where we’ve invested time and resources and passion, where we’re in front of our customers or friends or the public, and fall on our faces.

  • We just can’t get Leprechauns fast enough to build our cars.
  • We just got a call that a Leprechaun died.
  • Leprechaun power is great but people can’t steer because the Leprechauns won’t get out of the way.
  • All of our Leprechauns are on strike.

Failure here is the most costly.  It’s the hardest to recover but it also probably offers the greatest knowledge for the future.

So, while I don’t think we’re going to have Leprechaun-powered cars this week, go out there and fail well on your way to success.  And, while you’re at it, why not share your failure and success stories in the comments?

Photo credit: Thomas Guest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!