Failing Forward: How To Do It And Why It Matters

Failing Forward

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Say it with us: Success is not a straight line! No one in the history of business has made their way to the top without at least a few setbacks. But those that failed, knew the importance of failing forward.

Before we dive into setting yourself up to fail forward, here are a few examples, so you can be rest assured that even the biggest companies in the world, sometimes mess up too.

New Coke

In reaction to the Pepsi challenge, Coke tried to introduce something that tasted more like the competition. People hated it. It only took a few weeks to scrap the whole idea and come out with Coca-Cola Classic.

Pepsi A.M.

Speaking of the competition, Pepsi also made a blunder in an attempt to capture people who drank cola in the morning and only one year later it was canceled.


Another product with the sole purpose of taking marketing share from someone else. However, with no real reason to choose it over the iPod, it never caught on.


Thanks to being a bit too greedy, the race between VHS and Betamax was won by the former, even though the latter was a technically better option.

How To Fail Forward

Did you notice something about those brands? Coke, Pepsi, Microsoft, and Sony are all doing just fine. They failed, but they did so in the right way. They took risks and they didn’t pan out. It happens.

Do you know what’s worse than trying and failing? Failing to innovate and change with the times.

Be Prepared

The first thing might seem obvious, but it’s important nonetheless. Before diving into a new strategy, figure out what could go wrong and how to bounce back when that happens.

Set Goals

Not just any goals, SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. “Grow my business” is not a good goal. “Increase the sales of item 2 by 50% by October” is a good one. Having a SMART goal allows you to better direct your energy and increase or decrease the difficulty of that goal when you reach the time barrier.

Another key part of SMART is the achievable part. Be realistic. Thinking you can checkmate the King on your first move is just inviting failure.

You’re Not Alone

The chances that the challenge you’re facing is the first time anyone has ever faced it, is slim to none. Get involved in your business community, join your local chamber, and connect with other business owners. Not only are they most happy to offer advice, they’ll give you a heads-up on the challenges they faced in similar situations.

Don’t Move On To Quickly

When you do fail, and you will (and that’s okay), don’t just blow past it and try to rush to the next finish line. Break things down and try to understand why you failed and how you can prevent it from happening again. Failing once is perfectly fine, but failing twice for the exact same reason is not.

This Too Shall Pass

We said take the time to understand what happened, that doesn’t mean dwelling on it for too long. Failure is a solitary moment in time, not a permanent state of being. You fail, learn, move on, and do better.

There’s someone who isn’t actually the biggest fan of that word (though, failing forward is more positive), and we’re included to side with her on this one. You can hear from her in the latest episode of the Thinc Underground Podcast.

This week’s episode welcomes educator, strategic planner, and CEO of Okonta Solutions, Robin Okonta. Arif Khan speaks with Robin about empathy, growth, and the importance of using experience to educate and empower. “I don’t believe in failures. I don’t like that word, and it’s not even in my vocabulary. I say there are challenges.”

We were so thrilled to talk with such an incredibly inspiring person this week, and we know you’ll enjoy listening.

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