27/6/2013

Failure and the culture of silicon valley

Cushman at Hacker News on the thinking behind the people working in silicon valley

This applies to Silicon Valley in general, I think. We take risks, we bet on long shots, we try to serve markets with zero demand and squeeze blood from stones. We spend money like it was just paper, and when we don’t have money we give our time away for free working on things we believe in.

According to traditional business management practices, no startup should last more than a couple of months. And most don’t. And yet, somehow, Silicon Valley as a cultural economy is the most innovative, successful, profitable(?) place in the world.

What the MBAs don’t get is that a rising tide lifts all boats. If my company creates a new market, can’t meet demand, and goes under, I can easily find great work with the competitor that put me out of business. Or start a new business that serves their customers in a new market. Shoot, even if all I get out of it is that I can use their product, that’s great. I’m still better off, even though I lost”.

And as long as we have this understanding with each other, that failure won’t be punished, but rewarded, not with a golden parachute, but with more chances to fail– then we’re not afraid to take risks. We’re allowed to be crazy. We’re allowed to innovate.

Bet our future on an insanely great new project for which there’s no demand, why not? We have nothing to lose. It’s just a company, there will be more like it. We might not get rich, this time, but we’ll know we made a dent.

Steve Jobs might not have invented that idea, but he sure taught it to a whole bunch of us.

For communities to be entrepreneurial, this is key whether they are in the private, government or the social sector. A mindset like this around failure is the first step for an organisation to be innovative.


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