Fail early, fail often. Fail quickly, fail smart. Repeat.

People learn from failures far more than success.  And if you are to fail, do it early. And do it quickly, for this gives you time to fail again.  The last word is the key: repeat  Valid for people, but also valid for products.  For products, we want to make them fail often and early, as if before the product gets to market.  And failing repeatedly in the design process is a great way to find the 2999 ways not to build a light bulb. So we fail, and fail and fail, and we correct our approach, and fail again.  Often times this approach yields far superior results to analyze, analyze, analyze.

That sad of course, some failures carry a higher price than others.  And the cost of failure can’t be ignored, even in the early stages.  Destroying a prototype can not only have financial considerations but also may set back the schedule.  So failing smart is also part of the equation.

A great new engineering tool for frequent failers is the 3D printer, a godsend for mechanical designers.  We’ve spent so much money on 3D printing the last few months that we’ve made a consderable downpayment on our favorite prototype shop’s new company Ferrari. Actually, this is an exageration, because 3D printing has become cheap enough that we can design, test, fail, redesign.  Often.  We try out new ideas, we develop test plans, we break things. We break necks.  And motors and PCBAs and hinges and latches and circuits. We learn from these failures and try again.  And sometimes again. And again. And again.

On the flip side of the coin, products that fail in manufacturing, in the field, in the end customer’s home, well, that’s bad.  The whole reason we want to test the ___ out of our products is to lower the odds of that happening.  Besides testing, we use predictive tools like Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA) to get ahead of the potential failure modes, and to optimize our testing budget.  This comes back to the fail early part of the equation.

To failure!



  • Pingback: Productization · When we don’t want to break things

  • Jean

    Paul, you mention in the atlrcie that there is no mention of the Zune hardware products in that quote . In fact, the quote mentions Xbox LIVE, Windows-based PCs and Windows Phone 7, and seperately mentions Zune devices . Given that the console, desktop/notebook and WP7 categories are itemised here, and that Zune devices are listed as different to those, what is a Zune device if not a Zune hardware product, like the Zune HD? I also disagree with your interpretation of the quote overall. I don’t disagree that the quote does not directly answer the question of the future of Zune branding, nor does it explicitly say that these services will continue to be offered under the Zune brand. But it does say that it is committed to providing a great music and video experience from Zune I find it very odd that they would specifically mention that these services would be offered on the devices listed from Zune if they were committed to dropping Zune branding. Indeed, if there is a plan to kill off Zune, it makes little sense that they would choose to include those two little words there, as the rest of the quote makes it clear that the services themselves are not under threat. I acknowledge that there remains some ambiguity here and I certainly agree with broad consensus over the very notable absence of Zune references in the Nokia announcement cycle but my comments here are over the interpretation of the quote itself, and given the specific inclusion of from Zune in the quote, and the mention of Zune devices, I’d say the quote offers more points in favour of Zune continuing to exist as a brand than against it.

Leave a Comment