Tim Harford's Success Prep


In the run up to the release of his latest book, The Undercover Economist shared why and where he feels failure leads to success. Key finding;

I’ve concluded that adapting in the face of failure is absolutely vital – and a more painful challenge than I at first expected.

So, is there a way to minimise this pain? Well, in his own words here’s his trio of ground-rules;

  1. try lots of different things,
  2. make sure the experiments are at a small scale so that when things go wrong, it’s not a catastrophe and,
  3. make sure there’s a reliable way to tell the difference between success and failure.

This reminded me of many conversations I’ve had with people before they launch a new product. I find it difficult to advocate the big bang approach. Yet it is the way almost every such program goes. Global announcement and instant wet launch.

I’ve always liked the idea of piloting alternatives before unleashing the idea to the whole world. Such ‘damp launches’ could feature just a small proportion of salespeople, territory or singular variant of an overall product set.

The lessons learned can be invaluable. I once did this myself with a software module add-on. I consequently changed both price (raising it 33%) and upcoming enhancement priorities and nailed a smooth successful launch across the whole team. This helped enormously. For instance, in our entry-level marketplace average order value rose by over twenty-five percent.

The advice about knowing success from failure is also interesting. What’s the point if your anchor client(s) got outrageous preferential discounts, would buy anything anyway or ate way more sales time than later prospects would get?

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