Fail fast = learn fast.

The smartest people I know deliberately try to “break” their new ideas, or make them fail as quickly as possible… so that they can learn from the mistakes & optimize their ultimate results. 

They purposely create environments where they can quickly learn through rapid iteration: they may test ideas with customer advisory groups, or better yet actually run a new process with pilot groups.  Some use inexpensive prototypes for experimentation, allowing dozens of failures without incurring the high cost of full production.  You get the idea.

(Sidebar: Make sure to structure these experiments using the scientific method, rather than just shooting from the hip.  For more on this, I recommend you read Steve Spear – process improvement wizard, author, 5-time Shingo winner, consultant, and [disclaimer] a personal advisor.)

Key to this approach is a fundamental mindset question: How do you feel about failing?  Years of schooling & the conditioning of early career success may have you thinking you are supposed to “always know the right answer…” but let’s be honest: that’s statistically impossible.  We must get comfortable with admitting to the unknown, because this puts us into the “learning zone” and sets the right example for our teams.

Failure is tremendously helpful as long as it leads to accelerated learning.  Can you change your mindset about failure?