Failing to fail

Fail quickly, fail cheaply.

It’s an idea from the business world that pushes for innovation through failure. Try a new idea, and cut it quickly if it doesn’t work within a specified time-frame.

Media organizations have failed to fail.

We had 200 years to perfect print, 20 years to figure out this Internet thing, and we might have 2 years to adapt to mobile.

Change and fluidity currently define our industry. Yet our collective R&D is downright garbage when it comes to anything innovative.

Media researcher An Nguyen calls it a “fear-driven innovation culture.”

C.B. would point out that our industry does what’s worked in the past. And we are entering a place now that has no past.

Mobile tech represents the most immediate connection with our audiences. Without creative ways of reaching our core markets, how can we expect to win new readers and keep existing loyalties intact?

The stigma of quitting is attached at fundamental level to the American identity.

We don’t quit. We press on and pull ourselves up the bootstraps.

It’s the American way, they say.

Integrating a failure-tolerant culture into media companies is a daunting task, to be sure.

Plus, failing cheaply and failing quickly are much easier when an organization has a tangible product to test with consumers. If a great new idea pops up at John Deere, but none of the farmers in any focus group say it’s practical, odds are the idea won’t make it far.

News businesses have a product that is abstract: information.

Excuses aside, the media companies that will thrive in an increasingly mobile world will rule the airwaves and wifi connections only when they acknowledge the success in failure.

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