Resolve to Fail

I’ve long been a fan of the Tom Peters mantra “fail faster."  It points out that those who fail more often are apt to try more stuff and if you try more stuff you’re likely to find more success.

But I’ve struggled with its healthcare applicability.  We don’t need more failure in healthcare, we need less (e.g., the IHI’s 5 Million Lives Campaign).  In fact, we need perfection.

Still healthcare moves slow.  There aren’t enough people out there trying new stuff and I think that’s because people are afraid of making decisions because they’re afraid of the failure.  Failure is bad place in the healthcare psyche.

Perfection is fast becoming the necessity of quality healthcare.  As paradoxical as this may be, the only way we’re getting there is if we resolve to fail more often.  Not on the patient outcome side, but on the process ("how we get to those best outcomes”) side.  To become perfect we need to try more stuff.  If it works keep doing it; if not, by all means hit the brakes.  Look at the success of the checklist or the time out.  But how many things were tried before reaching those tools?  I’m guessing quite a few, the least of which was a reliance upon humans alone to not make mistakes.  That clearly didn’t work so someone tried something else.

I’m convinced the only path to perfection includes a whole lot of failure.

Seth wrote of Tim Burton’s success last week.  An interesting note about the projects that Tim has worked on: many of them failed.

Tim got his ideas out the door, to the people who decided what to do with them. And more often than not, they shot down his ideas. That’s okay. He shipped.

More stuff tried = more failure = more forward motion.  Jen wrote:

If I haven’t failed at at least 1 of my current projects per quarter I’m not pushing myself enough. It’s not easy to admit, but I’ll keep failing to keep learning how to be happy and fulfilled and ‘successful.’

Eric Karjaluoto on failure, or the lack thereof; it’s a fact of life:

We’re taught our whole lives to avoid failure, with the exception of a few business writers who will wax poetic about learning more from failure than success. While the latter is a little bright eyed, the former is simply unrealistic. Everything fails, and mostly in “less than profound” ways. Look around you; everything you see will at some point fail. It’s just a matter of time. Your toaster, your razor, your computer, your electric company, your government, perhaps even your planet: things break all around us.

Stop running from failure.  In fact, resolve to fail.  It’s progress.

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