Bernard Kravitz is the CTO of GoWatchIt.com
I encountered the Beckett quotation “fail better,” as a grad student in an MFA program years ago. I was drawn to its simple imperative wisdom. Fail, keep on failing, and then maybe you’ll get something right. It so simply encapsulated the creative process. That you need room for risk and tolerance for failure, before you can expect to produce anything really worthwhile.
Recently, I learned this quote has reached a bit of a critical mass, and may now be a new mantra for startup culture, according to a recent Slate article, “The Stunning Success of Fail Better” by Mark O’Connell. In his chronicle of its curious progression from the esoteric mud, to a sparkly delicious soundbite, now encapsulating iterative process and entrepreneurial risk, there is a sadness that something so specific as Beckett has been co-opted into the pages of the The 4-Hour Workweek. There is indeed more to those two words.
In a startup it is understood that your business goals may change within course of a day. You are presented with problems where there are no conventional solutions. As soon as you reach even a little bit of success, the rate at which your problems present themselves only increases. Sooner or later you are going to need a team.
When I was building my engineering team at GoWatchIt, I was very sensitive to creating the kind of environment and culture where creativity would thrive. The ground rules were simple, as long as you made a commitment to strive for the best possible product, any outcome was rewarded. It became understood that it would take several passes (failures) before the real product was ready (failing better).
Creating a conducive environment was not enough either, we also needed to find the right kind of people who would thrive in this kind of structure. In NYC, with the talent pool as competitive as it is, it was immensely difficult to find the right people. At some point, I realized, I needed to put into the NYC community what I was looking for in candidates—so I started teaching. For two years, I was an adjunct at CUNY, as part of an experimental program teaching graduating seniors applicable job skills. It was immensely rewarding, and ultimately I hired some of the most talented people on my team.
In an effort to invest more in the community, I now find myself teaching at GA. As an instructor I am tasked with empowering my students for success. I have been incredibly impressed with the environment that GA creates, I myself am supported and empowered to provide the same for my students. In my classroom I try to create the same theme of allowing for risk and failure. I cannot wait to find the next little bit of talent.
BTW, did I mention we’re hiring a VP of Engineering? You should apply.