Fail-up with a smile

In this interview, creative design agency owner Nick York brings the fragility of success into clear focus by reflecting on a recent memorable failure.

ABOUT NICK

Nick York
Nick York, Creative agency owner

Nick leads Hove creative agency 2UpFront. With a focus on high impact, quick turn-around and great value, they produce work for all kinds of interesting organisations from leading UK charities to financial services firms. When he’s not working his socks off, he plays sports or drinks beer, and sometimes he plays sports while drinking beer, though this never ends well.

THE INTERVIEW

Far from catastrophising because their “One Big Element” idea didn’t catch fire, Nick smiles and asserts that he would do all it again.

 

Fear of failure is a common and perfectly understandable human condition. At best, it holds us back and dulls our enthusiasm with a dose of caution. At worse, it stops us in our tracks or diverts us to more well-trodden paths.

 

Yet, failures are a guaranteed part of life and lay the foundation of success. Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the lightbulb and Dyson produced over 5,000 prototypes of the dual cyclone vacuum cleaner that eventually made his fortune. It is hard to imagine that they could have achieved what they did without the serial failure that comes with experimentation.

 

Nick and his team are justifiably proud of their idea. This experiment didn’t take off, and others they have tried have failed too, but that won’t stop them building on what they’ve learnt for the next venture.

One Big Element products
One Big Element products

HOW TO ‘F… UP’ RIGHT

Inspired by Nick and many other entrepreneurs and innovators, here are five ways to ensure failures are steppingstones to triumph rather than brick walls:

Admit failure to yourself:

Every improvement journey starts with recognising and acknowledging your failure. Keeping only to the facts, describe what is wrong or didn’t work.

Admit failure to yourself:

Every improvement journey starts with recognising and acknowledging your failure. Keeping only to the facts, describe what is wrong or didn’t work.

Look for the upside in the down:

If nothing else, you’ve found one more answer that doesn’t work, so narrowed down the possible options. The reality is that you probably have far more valuable lessons to draw out. Look for what did work, identify the positives, tease out the silver lining. It’s always there when you force yourself to look.

Avoid leaps you can’t get up from:

Risk-taking is a good thing. It enables you to push the boundaries of what is possible and drives innovations. After-all, to make new discoveries we need to venture into the unknown. But we only get to share the wonders we find if we return. So, it pays to fail small and incrementally, learning and improving one step at a time.

Plan to fail:

When you lock-in the assumption that you will fail along the way, you change how you develop things. You start to build failure into an improvement framework that hones ideas more effectively into successes. People who plan to fail tend to involve customers earlier in the cycle, they knowingly take incomplete betas to market and are more willing to pivot.

ENDS