Think big, act small, fail fast; learn rapidly”  -Mary and Tom Poppendieck, Lean Software Development

Originally a four part quote focused on software development, the “fail fast” part is gaining traction among startups.  Although many have an opinion as to its merits, I haven’t seen a reasoning for its ability to spread.  Here then are some reasons it would be popular, regardless of its merit:

  • With the economy where it is, the probability of failure will be higher, and this increases the (perfectly rational) fear of failure.  As a result, rewarding failure is a nice psychological judo move, and it encourages more people to start a company knowing the odds.
  • The developer driven startups will tend toward analysis paralysis; encouraging failure is a cure for this. (”Ready Fire Aim” versus “Ready Aim Aim Aim”)
  • In step with the increasing rate of change, the lean software development methodologies have gained adoption over more traditional linear methodologies.  With more developer driven startups, its natural to apply a developer credo to the business planning; hence the adoption of Eric Ries’ Lean Startup methodology.
  • “Fail fast” implicitly assumes the only alternative is to “fail slow”.  While not accurate, this makes failing fast appear to be the better option.

The Fail Fast Meme: Why So Contagious?