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Comments on PHILANTHROPY 2173: Measuring failure





Updated: 2017-12-07T23:30:12.337-08:00

 



Another related, popular quote with creative folks...

2008-05-20T05:47:00.000-07:00

Another related, popular quote with creative folks is from Samuel Beckett: "Fail better." I think the message is the same, but its succinctness makes it more powerful (in my view) -- at least for people who really understand what it means. Makes a nice bumper sticker / office sign, anyway.



"Fail faster, to succeed sooner" is the axiom he's...

2008-05-19T17:58:00.000-07:00

"Fail faster, to succeed sooner" is the axiom he's describing, very popular with engineers, industrial and process designers, creative folks. Most foundations and nonprofits don't seem to have that ethic, though. For many nonprofits, I've always thought the reason is that they couldn't (or didn't believe they could) absorb and recover from failure. Kind of like the way very small farmers in developing nations were inherently conservative in trying new seeds,new techniques - the gains from innovation may be high, even proven to be high in other cases, but the price of failure for them and their families was starvation. Not sure why the "fail faster" ethic isn't stronger at foundations, however, because for them that calculus - failure = extinction - doesn't apply. Let's hope Jim Canales' example of discussing failures will encourage others to follow, and eventually lead more funders to try, revise and adapt approaches more quickly and openly.

Another point to keep in mind, though, is that innovation may be "oversubscribed" in philanthropy, as Dr. Ross of the Endowment recently remarked. The question in many fields is less what to do, but how to do it to scale, and the old notion that government or "society" would expand and support proven innovations doesn't seem to hold , if it ever did. That's why Ross thought advocacy may be more important.