Embrace Failure Like Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic

12 April, 2018

#WhyShaiWhy [Videos] Agile Build an Amazing Team Scrum

While failure will always have a stigma attached to it, we need more teams like the one I describe today to fly the ‘Embrace Failure’ flag proudly.

Hint: You can come back from failure.

This week two failures popped up on my radar. The first: Virgin Galactic’s tragic failed mission of 2014, and the second: a software update that failed (sort of).

The first thing Richard Branson did after hearing the news on October 31 2014 was fly into the VG base HQ and console all his employees. Classy guy with a heart of gold. The second thing he did was tell everyone that failure does not mean we need to stop. Smart guy with a brain for business. This week, VG made headlines by launching their first successful flight after the failure. Oh and did I mention a $1B investment.

Yes, that’s a ‘B’.

There may be a stigma with failure that will endure through the rest of time. I personally have had (and continue to have) many heartaches, sleepless nights, and stress due to failure (or fear thereof), but this week I was introduced to software that holds embracing failure in the highest regard. So much so that they put it in plain text right there in front of the user. Lesson: shout your failures out loud!

Imagine this – you update some of your favourite software. Everything goes smoothly till the end, then this happens:

Software updated successfully.
Some of your preferences may have changed.

Hmmm. Many would (rightly) argue that when it comes to software ‘completeness’, that this update missed the mark. Totally agree. But here’s the thing.

What if…

  1. What if this team made a rational decision to release the update knowing full well that the preferences would change?
  2. What if this team decided that the expense of fixing this failure was too much for the value that their customer-base would get from updating their software?
  3. What if the team had another feature that they wanted to develop that customers were raving for, and benched this fix for later?


I’m an eternal optimist. It get’s me in a lot of trouble (weeks later, I am still waiting/hoping/praying for my espresso machine to turn up for which I paid a big upfront deposit from an apparently not-so-legit person). But I can’t help have all the above what-ifs in my head. If I am right, then I fully support the decision made by this software team to ship the update.

Here’s the best What If

What if this team decided to do this, but not tell the customer that preferences had change?

This is where I got totally convinced this was a rational decision made by smart people: they were totally transparent about it. If they had pushed out this update for customers to consume and deliberately hid the fact that the update broke previously set preferences…THAT would be a big no-no. But instead, we got humanity, sincerity, and transparency. Big yes-yes!

Shout your failures out loud. Because even though I continue to feel the effects of losing a night’s sleep this week – what I know for sure is that failure is painful, but so much more valuable than money.

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