I am amazed how often people will completely abandon an idea after they test it out once.  It’s easy to find examples from daily life.  You write a great essay and show it to one person who hates it, then throw it away.  You discover a new restaurant and ask one friend to go, who refuses, then never mention it again.

It’s even more rampant at the project level.  A group of students start a club at their university, don’t recruit more than five people in one month, then decide to throw in the towel.  A marketing team launches an online campaign, doesn’t hit its target goals, and decides the Internet is not suited to their product.  A design team creates one prototype that the client doesn’t like, and then starts completely fresh with a new design.

It’s human nature to please, and most of us are sensitive to negative feedback.  It oftentimes only takes one offhand comment to make us abandon an original idea.

And that’s where the problem lies.

Just because an idea doesn’t succeed at one level or with one person, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea.  Andrew O’Connell wrote a great Harvard Business Review article about how failure with one audience could lead to success somewhere else.  I’d like to take that to another level and say that oftentimes, we’re not right the first time, and that’s okay.  An idea we thought “failed” two years ago might be worth pursuing tomorrow, with just a different coat of paint.

Jacob and I are trying to track of all our ideas with Fellowstream, even the ones we reject, both on the product design and marketing side of things.  We’re not afraid to blur the lines a little to experiment and show people things in a different way if one way isn’t working.  It’s a hard balance to show something new and differentiated in the marketplace, while still being flexible enough to admit you’re wrong at first blush, but we both feel it will be crucial here as we approach the beta phase of our product.  We don’t want to live and die by being either 1) too inflexible to change or 2) too scared to tweak something that hasn’t worked out.

-Deborah Fike

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