Fail fast is one of the worst expressions coined and even worse understood terminologies. Most startups I speak to, seem to think that ‘Fail Fast’ means start in a hurry, fail in a hurry, shut down and leave. Lower Opportunity Cost!
If this is the philosophy that a startup is following, then failure is inevitable.
Every startup is based on a deep insight on human behaviour. The business is trying to exploit the behaviour to effect certain actions and hence profit from the same.
Once you have identified the behaviour, the next challenge is to find the best way to effect the behaviour - Product-Market Fit. If you are certain about your insights and believe strongly enough, you should pursue to build a business.
Cutting across to 'Fail Fast’; one of the greatest assets that a startup has is being able to make quick decisions. A small structure and small number of customers means that huge changes can be effected without really feeling much pain. This is the essence of fail fast. If you feel a certain approach to your product does not seem to be successful in the real world, change it.
Take another approach, try to generate clients quickly, if there are too many ‘No’s' that you hear, invariably the Product-Market fit has not been found. At such a point you change your approach, change how the product is being delivered or even what the product is. You figure out the failure of the model/product and change it.
Fail fast is not about running the ship aground; its about finding the flaws through failure and rooting them out. Schooling does not teach us to fail. The real world requires us to fail, because failure is the best teacher. I wrote a post about this. (Why dropout make good businessmen)
One failure would give you more insight than 1000’s of successes ever could!
Why is this not possible in a large company?
If a company, say Microsoft, were to decide today that they do not wish to be in the phone business; can they just shut it down? They would have to make a case to the board, see the cost of laying-off people and the losses they would have to write off on stocks in stores and supply chain, figure out how to support existing customers; not an easy decision. Therefore decisions take time in large companies, not so in a startup!
Making those decisions quickly helps you get ahead. If you procrastinate, you loose the advantage of being a startup.
Therefore Fail Fast is all about being extremely decisive.