People learn best through trial and error, which is a nice way of saying that people learn through failure. Startups are no different. Let’s say, for example, you assume that the only way to make your business feasible is to sell on a mass scale through distributors. Since this assumption underpins the feasibility of your business, you have to challenge this assumption. You throw together a prototype, and start calling on distributors. After meeting with five distributors, it’s painfully obvious that there is no interest in your product. You can look at this as a massive failure. Or you can look at it as a learning experience. After all, you just figured out one way that it won’t work, and picked up a ton of info from the interviews.
It sounds crazy, but to succeed you have to fail first – and often. As David Kelly, founder of IDEO, says, “Fail faster, succeed sooner.” The chasm between reality and what you believe is often wide and deep. Only by trying something, failing, learning, and then trying again can you begin to piece together reality in the mind of the customer. Don’t worry if you fall on your face…it’s the best way to learn.