Fail Fast, Fail Forward, but Do Something

By Jim Whitt

Years ago I spent a couple of days with Kenny Sherrill, owner the Union Stockyards in McAlester, Oklahoma. Most of the cattle in Oklahoma those days were sold at livestock auctions like Kenny’s or traded privately but a new method of selling cattle was creating a buzz. Cattle were videoed and sold via satellite feed. The primary advantage was that distance was eliminated. Instead of traveling to live auctions you could sit in front of a television and buy cattle regardless of where they were located.

While many auction owners considered the satellite auction to be competition, Kenny acquired the franchise for the satellite auction in his area. I asked him if he thought the satellite would be the way most cattle would be sold in the future. “I don’t know,” he answered. “But if it is, I’d rather be part of it than having to compete against it.”

New technologies are changing the playing field in almost every industry today. Digital publishing has turned the world of print media upside down. If you are publishing newspapers, magazines or books, you have a choice. You can be part of digital publishing or compete against it. This conundrum is as old as time itself. If you were a horse trader or sold buggies in the early 20th century you could cuss the automobile or start selling them.

From a personal standpoint I have no interest in social media. But from a business standpoint I can’t afford to ignore it. If you’re in business you can’t afford to ignore it either.

In an article entitled Social Media Is Morphing into Social Business, Beverly Macy, CEO of Gravity Summit LLC had this to say, “If you’re in top management, don’t wait. Work with a solid strategic consulting team who can help you develop a road map of entry points to foster social business, both internally and externally. The opportunity to deepen relationships with clients and partners by removing communication barriers is truly transformational.”

As is the case with learning anything new you are going to have to pay some tuition. “My advice is fail fast, fail forward, but do something,” writes Macy. “The rewards are waiting for those who blaze the trail.” I think that’s great advice for life in general.

I’ve paid my share of tuition learning new technology. Some of you reading this can remember when my articles came to you via fax. It was new technology when I started this publication 20 years ago. The fax edition gave way to another new technology, email.

I’m still publishing via email but found I can reach an even wider audience by posting my articles on my website blog and sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. And I can direct even more people to those sites using Twitter.

With the advent of each new technology I’ve had to make a choice — do nothing or give it a try. I’ve had to pay a lot of tuition, learn a whole new way of doing things and experienced varying degrees of failure with each transition. But I’ve managed to fail forward.

Failure carries a price tag but doing nothing is much more expensive. Just because we refuse to change doesn’t mean others won’t. And I’d rather be part of something new than having to compete against it.

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