Author: Mason C., Inflow Technical Writer
As the team here at HQ gathered around the table in the Idea Room for Inflow’s second quarter meeting, we were met with organic spaghetti and “All Natural” Marshmallows, though, truthfully, I don’t think there’s a single natural thing about marshmallows. Regardless, my excitement grew as I connected the dots – we were going to roast marshmallows on our electrical fireplace here at HQ! Needless to say, I was quite disappointed when I was told NOT to eat the Marshmallows.
Disappointment, however, quickly faded into excitement as we were tasked to build the tallest, freestanding structure using only 20 sticks of spaghetti, 8 marshmallows, and an indefinite amount of Scotch tape. To the winners: a prize! Two teams were quickly formed and our 15-minute window began! Friendships were broken, names were called, and corporate espionage ran rampant – it was war. The teams were strikingly different. On the one side, their strategy was “Build, Build, Build!” No plan, all action. The other side took the mantra of “Brainstorm, Conceptualize, Plan, Proof-of-Concept, Revise, then Build.” At the end of the 15 minutes stood only one tower. The other laid limp on the table. Can you guess which team’s tower stood?
The lesson was both Powerful and Insightful.
In the midst of the “no plan, all action” team, stood a tower 71 cm high while the calculative team looked upon a heap of spaghetti and mallow rubble. It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it, that the team who planned had a failed design whereas the team without a plan not only succeeded, but exceeded.
It’s our inclination, it seems as we get older, to plan. Perhaps it’s because, as children, we get engrained by others time and time again that mistakes are bad. Yet if you look at a child, their whole life is built upon mistakes. Watch a child who’s trying to walk but then falls. That’s a mistake. Watch her as she tries to balance herself on a bike just before she scrapes her knee on the ground. That’s a mistake. Watch her struggle through a book, mispronouncing words left and right. Yet after each mistake she learns. Through enough mistakes, she not only begins to walk, but starts to run. Mistakes aren’t bad but are rather the means to achieve and then exceed.
The “Build, Build, Build” philosophy, come to find out, is built on failure. Because they spent their 15 minutes building, they were constantly faced with failures, designs that wouldn’t work; so they reiterated their design. Whereas the “Planning” team spent the bulk of their time conceptualizing, and it wasn’t until they began to execute that they realized their plan had its faults. They were just 15 minutes too late.
That’s the moral of the story. Don’t aspire for perfection, aspire for “done” and perfection will follow suit. The faster a project is done, the sooner you can revise it and move on to version two, then version three and four. “Fail Fast” is about embracing mistakes, learning from them, then moving forward with a better sense of direction. We each come across forks in the road, and it can be frightening having to choose a path. Here’s a little piece of advice: Don’t stop, and especially don’t start going backwards. If you don’t like the direction the road is going, walk to the other road. There’s only ever a small median between you and the road to success.
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