09/16/2013 05:06 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

sustainABILITY simplicated (sAs) Step 7: Fail Faster

Sustainability represents a multi-billion dollar revenue opportunity, along with a healthier and happier existence for us all. sAs offers 7 Simple Steps to Sustainable Business Growth.

Stay tuned to sAs for playful, practical, and profitable advice, and check out any steps you've missed from this series here.

sAs Step 7: Fail Faster

"I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work." -Thomas Edison on failure

Yup, Edison ran thousands of experiments before 'finding' the key to sustained electric light. Each failure taught him something about what to try next.

In Step 6: Tell It Like It Is, we talked about the importance of sharing your failures. Now it's time to use them. Failures teach us where we still need some work. Without failure, progress is impossible.

So this last step toward sustainable growth is not a 'step' per se. There is no last chapter, no final step. Innovation is about iteration.

Did you know that a plane leaving Hong Kong for Honolulu is off track approximately 99 percent of the time? Minor course corrections allow the plane to land precisely at destination some 15 hours later. We can afford, in fact we need, course corrections. What we can't afford is to stay on the ground with an industrial model from the 18th century.

Maybe it is time to reinvent the wheel.


Now, we're not looking for a 99% failure rate or 10,000 drawing boards. Reinventing the wheel does require the courage to experiment, fail, and learn from those failures (wash, rinse, repeat). But luckily hundreds of thousands of leaders just like you are already hard at work in the innovation laundromat.

Check out a few of these examples for some inspiration.

Retail Innovation : Don't Buy This Jacket
Transportation Innovation : Wheels When You Want Them
Energy Innovation : Plug Into The Smart Grid

Action: Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Together with your Good Gang, review your vision and MAP.

1. Choose one step on your MAP that intimidates you and ask: What is the tiniest experiment we can commit to today in order to learn and grow? Want your entire organization to go paperless, for example? Start prototyping these small changes with your Good Gang:
-Asana as an alternative to paper to-do lists
-HelloSign instead of printing, signing, and faxing or mailing contracts
-Evernote for recording everything...really, everything

2. After you've run your first experiment together, consider:
-What worked well?
-What didn't? (Remember: without failure, progress is impossible.)

3. Now, run another small experiment with your Good Gang or scale out to your department or office. Each iteration will teach you something new and get you closer to your goal. And, eventually, you'll be looking back at all those experiments from your sAssy future running a sustainable business.

Please leave a comment below telling us about your first experiment on the innovation curve to your sAssy future.