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Fail Better: Design Smart Mistakes and Succeed Sooner
Anjali Sastry and Kara Penn
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Format: Hardcover, 256pp.
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
Pub. Date: November 4, 2014
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Item No: 9781422193440
Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:
If you’re aiming to innovate, failure along the way is a given. But can you fail better?
Whether you’re rolling out a new product from a city-view office or rolling up your sleeves to deliver a social service in the field, learning why and how to embrace failure can help you do better, faster. Smart leaders, entrepreneurs, and change agents design their innovation projects with a key idea in mind: ensure that every failure is maximally useful.
In Fail Better, Anjali Sastry and Kara Penn show how to create the conditions, culture, and habits to systematically, ruthlessly, and quickly figure out what works, in three steps:
1. Launch every innovation project with the right groundwork
2. Build and refine ideas and products through iterative action
3. Identify and embed the learning
Fail Better teaches you how to design your efforts to test the boundaries of your thinking, explore crucial interdependencies, and find the factors that can shift results from just acceptable to groundbreaking—or even world-changing. Practical instructions intertwined with compelling real-world examples show you how to:
• Make predictions and map system relationships ahead of time so you can better assess results
• Establish how much failure you can afford
• Prioritize project activities for disconfirmation and iteration
• Learn from every action step by collecting and examining the right data
• Support efficient, productive habits to link action and reflection
• Distill, share, and embed the lessons from every success and failure
You may be a Fortune 500 manager, scrappy start-up innovator, social impact visionary, or simply leading your own small project. If you aim to break through without breaking the bank—or ruining your reputation—this book is for you.
“In corporations, governments, academic organizations, and nonprofits, there is a desperate need for leaders willing to boldly experiment, thoughtfully learn from failures, and refocus their efforts—yet few actually do. In this important book, Sastry and Penn show us how.”
—Sachin H. Jain, Lecturer, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School; former Senior Advisor, Health Care Reform, Obama Administration
“Fail Better is a brilliant antidote to most management thinking. You are going to fail. The question is: Can you fail better, learn from your mistakes, and get closer to where you need to be? If you’re committed to improving health care, or passionate about the economic development in poorer countries—or if you’ve ever tried anything, really—this is a must-read.”
—Simon Johnson, coauthor, 13 Bankers and White House Burning
“There are some clear choices in life: fail to learn or learn to fail. Although it’s not hard to make the right choice, it is hard to find a map for turning individual mistakes into the stepping stones of a mission-driven journey. Thankfully, Sastry and Penn offer us clear footprints to follow and even tell us how to customize the path to our own unique needs. New entrepreneurs and old hands alike will marvel at the sense and sensibility of their project-driven approach. May everyone’s passion and mission benefit from this tour de force.”
—Una S. Ryan, Chair, Bay Area BioEconomy Initiative
“Failures, whether at the office or in our personal lives, evoke fear of rejection. No wonder we often conceal or ignore them, even though we shouldn’t. That’s why Fail Better is so useful. It’s a practical guide that will help you and your company manage failures while turning them into opportunities that could eventually lead to much greater successes.”
—Anuj Pasrija, Head of Group Social Business, Novartis
“When failure is inevitable in the innovation economy, weeding out useless failures is a an efficient way to succeed. Anjali and Kara show a practical way to do it.”
—Desh Deshpande, Trustee, Deshpande Foundation; Life Member, MIT Corporation
“As a veteran in technology and management consulting for 30 years, I found value in the reminder that it's up to me to create the environment for success through deliberate planning, learning, and feedback. These lessons apply in business and life."
—Natalie Givens, Senior Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton
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About the Authors
Anjali Sastry is senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her research investigates global health delivery and management, applying systems thinking and practical, business-based approaches in low-resource settings. She has conducted numerous field studies and collaborative action projects in Africa and Asia and advises and teaches internationally.
Kara Penn is cofounder and principal consultant at Mission Spark, where she works on the front lines of practical management to implement new approaches in complex settings. She has led award-winning community collaboratives; designed, managed, and evaluated multiyear social change initiatives; and guided more than sixty NGOs, social enterprises, corporations, and foundations. Several prestigious fellowship programs, including Coro, Watson, and Forté, have recognized her leadership and community contributions.
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