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Learning to Fail

Let’s start with a fun exercise: Go here, and play this little game, originally designed to discuss government policy making.

How did you get on?

Statistically, many of you will have failed, as confirmation bias has hindered your ability to analyse the situation.

Confirmation bias stems from your brain hating the word “no”. As a result, it emphasises evidence that verifies your ideas, and ignores evidence that disproves you. This can lead to campaigns being hailed as successes, when really they weren’t!

The best way to combat this is to use the scientific method, and particularly falsification, at the centre of your marketing operations. Always strive to prove yourself wrong, rather than prove yourself right. Only once you’ve failed to find a flaw in your plans can you safely announce their success. To ensure that you’re operating at your most effective, there should be no hiding places! 

Although your own brain will fight you, a bigger obstacle may be external pressures attributed to failure in a working environment. Many employees feel that the risk of failing is too great to be worthwhile. This means that, not only do marketers take fewer risks, but they’re also desperate to prove that they haven’t failed.

It takes a brave marketer to try and prove themselves wrong, and their campaigns as ineffective. But, if you’re looking for a culture of excellence, then you need to create an environment that allows for calculated risks, where team members are allowed to fail on the journey to great marketing.

In addition, the bigger your business, the tougher it is to find your faults. Internal politics, enormous, time sapping projects and brutal "rack and stack" staff review systems make it almost impossible. 

This is where start-ups have the edge. As much as we're all sick of Linkedin posts telling us to "fail fast", this ability to assess your work quickly, critically and without fear is exactly how they pull this off- now just in marketing, but in all business.

So my message is this: Test everything, don’t be afraid to lose a battle or two in order to win the war, and failing is a journey to success.