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009 - How to "Fail Successfully"

Success doesn't have to be an "all or nothing" situation. Keith explains how to change your habits and start planning using only degrees of success.

Keith Quinn talks about his philosophy of "failing successfully."

Here is a common situation in the online gaming industry: Developers will fully plan a game and then work toward fulfilling 100% of that plan. However, the bigger the project, the longer it will take to complete and the greater the likelihood of things going wrong. Concepts like "over promise, under deliver," "feature creep," and even "putting all your eggs in one basket" may be mentioned. Deadlines might be missed unless features are cut, and so they are. Perhaps the game launches with only 85% of the game concept. The game suffers by the absence of features that were intended for the release version but never made it into the final form, because the user has a sense that the game is somehow incomplete. Periodic post-launch updates will struggle to play catch-up, but the damage is done.

Imagine instead that the developers planned their product in small chunks. The core game becomes something easily created in much less than the desired timeframe; this part will be a whole game, although one with few features. Now, there is no way that the product will launch without a full, polished game. Additions would be modularized into smaller, completable, self-contained chunks. Most will be completed before the game launches, but they are all bonuses to the game and users will never feel like the game launched in a substandard form. Success criteria changed from the previous paragraph's fears about not completing a full game into more positive goals based on improving the core game with satisfying updates.

This same concept can be applied to many other endeavors, including comic creation. Anthony's latest comic has been divided into multiple stories with multiple creators. If problems slow down the progress of one, the impact is much less than if he had only one story and one set of creators. Keith will not be able to finish the last chapter of the next Local Heroes story, but he can still achieve his goal of being at Staple 2010 with new products.