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Intelligent Failure

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

“One thing is common with very successful people. On a minute-by-minute, day-by-day practical basis, successful people don’t go around succeeding all day. Successful people actually fail. Only through failure is there a pathway to success.” This quotation of Simon Woodroffe was used in an article by Ian Ashbridge describing the leadership style of the Yo! Sushi founder.


Those who venture to start a small business typically have the desire to succeed. Many entrepreneurs start out as intrapreneurs. These are individuals who think entrepreneurially within a corporate business. But when one leaves behind the achievment of a professional benchmarks and performance based incentive, friends and family may ask why. Afterall a startup may not make a profit or a measurable achievement for several financial periods or even a few years. So the goal when striking out on your own is remember the failures that one has had, and not repeat them.


A person who has the ability to progress beyond their failure is one who has a growth mindset? But what if failure is beyond their control. They would then have to assess if they have an internal or external locus of control . Those who posses an internal locus of control believe that they are masters of their own destiny. When markets change, consumer buying habits stop those who have an internal locus of control can quickly pivot to a find new opportunity. To contrast those who believe that their business fate lies in the hands of others operate in an external locus of control. In this case they keep on repeating what has worked in the past and hope that their efforts will be successful. The factor that really determines the rate of success in a business, concerning both types of locus of control, is the entrepreneurs’ ability to adapt to change, because change is inevitable.

Intelligent Failure

This almost sounds like an oxymoron, but its not. It simply means to discover new paths forward. Experimenting and prototyping are activities to see if our assumptions are valid. Those who are experimenting now and learning from their failures will be the leaders of tommorow. So here are my suggestions.

  1. Take smart risks that will help you achieve your mission.

  2. Detect the failure early.

  3. Analyze the cause of the failure.

  4. Change your mindset, if needed.

  5. Learn from outcome, repeat the success's and pivot to something new both in and out of failure.

Ashbridge, Ian. “Success means stepping outside the ‘comfort zone’.” Farmers Weekly 8 Mar 2018: P 77.

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