Fail Faster

The First Lesson That Every Developer Should Learn

    Fail faster is the designers, developers, and mentors credo. It is our mantra, our goal, and one of the most fundamental (yet essential) lessons that can be applied towards all walks-of-life. No idea is made fully formed, no design that we will ever make will be right on the first pass. The art of what we do is essentially spiraling towards a better center, course correcting along the way. Fail faster, because without testing and without exposing your thoughts to others and embracing how many horrible and egregious mistakes that you have made in your last pass, you will never improve.

    Fail faster, by understanding that no idea is good, by understanding that the high-level idea in Super Mario, is a plumber on drugs, that the concept behind Sonic the Hedgehog is an indigo hedgehog in sneakers that can run really fast, and that the pitch for Gears of War is fundamentally linebackers with chainsaw guns. These ideas are all terrible and they are all great. As mere ideas, they are meaningless, choose something, anything, then begin to iterate and fail faster.

    Any plan is better than no plan because even though your plan is inevitably filled with miserable misconceptions that will lead you headlong into problems as you go, to and from there you can start to correct your course toward what is really right. Too many times have individuals, teams, and organizations spun their wheels debating concepts and high-level ideas, and only started to work once they felt as though they had the best possible idea. However, that perfect idea of theirs, was as human and as flawed and as fundamentally broken as of all our ideas, and now they spent so much time dreaming up that perfect idea that they had no time left iterate on it. Now those perfect ideas are relegated to bargain bins, or lingering on one of those unseen projects that never shipped because they were unable to mill out all the flaws. Meanwhile, ideas like “hey let’s throw birds at pigs” makes a billion dollars, and “let’s put a child into a zombie apocalypse” moves people to tears… so fail faster.

    You do not even need to have something workable to fail, it does not have to be fully baked; you do not even need more than words on a page. Start with what the first broad pass on what you will do, and then hand it off. Tell people “Hey, um, I’m examining this for a friend of mine and I don’t think it’s very good, however, I was hoping to get a second opinion,” just so no one’s afraid to be brutally honest with you, let them red line that thing and mark it all up. Let them just tear it apart bit-by-bit and accept the truth(s) that you might be too close to see. This is how things goes from sucking, to sucking less, to being somewhat okay, to being pretty good, to finally becoming great.

    Fail before you even have a line of code, a word on a page, or a stroke of paint on a canvas. Fail before you mock-up the mechanics on paper, try and share it with others as quickly as you can to get your concept art in front of a dozen eyes while trying twenty different styles and themes. Close your eyes and try to imagine yourself as an outside observer observing your work. Imagine yourself observing it and try to identify with what might be wrong, including what might work.

    Fail faster, get a prototype up as soon as humanly possible because. It does not need art, it does not need to impress; it needs to be as raw and as open as it can be so you can understand it without all of the bells and whistles distracting you. Then observe and/or play with it, do this until it is chewed up and spat out. Let everyone else do the same, and you will learn. Then, play with it, play around with it until you have buried it into the ground, and then allow everyone else to play with it. You will learn, you will correct, and you will do so before it costs you greatly. Because the later you fail the more expensive your failures will be to correct, and so the less likely you will be to correct them, so fail faster.

     Your ideas cannot be precious, your ego cannot be protective. You have to understand that the only thing that matters is the things that you do, not any of the steps along the way. Every failure is an opportunity for betterment, every failure is another chance to get it right, and do not give these away out of fear or shyness.

 Fail faster! Because failing is how we get it right!

References


Floyd, D., Krol, M. and Portnow, J. (2014). Fail Faster - A Mantra for Creative Thinkers - Extra Credits. [online] YouTube.

    Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDjrOaoHz9s [Accessed 5 Feb. 2014].

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