Course Description

The Art of Failure

Success, the high altar of our culture. Failure, the dungeon of our culture. But our success culture is in deep and fundamental conflict with entrepreneurship, innovation, risk-taking, learning and, inextricably, failure. Success without failure is simply ….  luck. Innovation is a double helix built with creativity, risky exploration, testing assumptions, sweat, failures, learning, retrenchment, re-creation, re-exploration, re-learning, mutation, and eventual victory. Failure is not the opposite of success, but its compliment. This course overturns the common knowledge of failure and success, and proposes that failure has to be embraced as an essential platform for innovation and success.

What is the “Art of Failure”?

1. An attitude and mindset of entrepreneurial inquisitiveness and experimentation, which embraces the drive to build innovation start ups as an ongoing trial and error learning process

2. A set of state-of-the-art Silicon Valley tools, methodologies, and resources that practicably reflect this trial and error process:

• Super low entry cost ventures

• Blank Customer Discovery process

• Agile Development methodologies

• Y-Combinator incubation approach

• Chaldini influence principles

• Pivoting / flanking moves

• Global crowd sourcing & crowd funding resources

Course Description

The course examines the frequently contradictory views of failure in the Silicon Valley and venture capital arenas. We will also hear, first-hand, the failure/success stories from Silicon Valley executives and ventures in developing countries. We will examine the state-of-the-art entrepreneurial methods for embracing failure such as Y Combinator, Fast Failure and Failure Tolerant Leadership. It will review the academic literature on failure, discussing its causes and prescriptions for prevention. In particular, we will look at the engineering view of failure, including the FMEA approach (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) and the possible application of this approach to the business world.

We will also examine and discuss cross-cultural views of failure and risk-taking.  We  will examine how the pace of competitive knowledge offered through modern communication technologies, has caused some of the old, classical methods of planning and managing business risk to be supplanted by more agile methods which incorporate frequent, real-world, testing of assumptions – and explicitly incorporating knowledge from “failures.” We will examine current research on the psychology of failure. Students will participate in diagnostic tests to help them understand their own unique patterns and proclivities to fail. They will also examine their own resilience and paths to recovery and renewal.

One Response to Course Description

  1. says:

    I enjoyed the workshop that you hosted at Monterey Institute of International Studies last weekend. It was very insightful. I agree with your statement above: success without failure is simply luck. Ultimately, I believe that entrepreneurs will be successful if they are willing to take risks.

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