Failure is essential to the process of learning. Is this a new cultural belief, a new way of thinking or an absolute truth, and does success become failure?
This could be a new way of looking at learning as humans are more aligning themselves with technological processes, i.e where computers learn on an iterative algorithm and we aim to mimic these efficiencies. Is this a paradox of machine learning and human nature, which are not parallel or compatible because humans are emotional beings?
In previous times, via the schooling system (British), humans have often learned that failure is a negative achievement, that it is a result of poor performance or is a measure of someone who will not succeed in life. This leaves the student with a complex of failure or emotional baggage or, in contrast, uses that same force to become driven. There are many successful humans who have experienced this, e.g Richard Branson or Tim Martin of JD Wetherspoons. This poses the question that had these entrepreneurs not had that belief pushed onto them then, is it possible that they may not have attained such heights?
Humans are embarking on digitising the world with algorithms which is replacing and reducing human involvement in tasks such as warehouse fulfilment. This can be seen via Amazon FBA and in a study by Stephanie Clifford of New York Times, who told the story of Parkdale Mills: a textile factory in Gaffney, South Carolina. The Parkdale plant employ 140 factory workers, whereas in the 1980s the same level of production would have required more than 2000 workers.1
To build cars, Tesla’s new plant in Fremont, California, uses 160 industry robots to assemble about 400 cars per week.2 Factories in Detroit and Japan have exceeded that by cranking up production to some3400 cars a day on one of the world’s most advancedautomotiveproductionlines. IsTeslafallingbehindonthisafailureorpartof the evolution process: fail to learn? Is Tesla failing with a production of 400 cars a week by a successor of 400 a day, and the decline of 90% redaction in human involvement in the process a success? Is this success diminishing humans in employment or do humans have to redefine a new purpose of existence in life?
There are various project methodologies, such as Waterfall, Agile and the newly adopted hybrid Lean Start-Up.
First looking at Waterfall: an older methodology that is still in use today but not relevant for start-up projects. A building project would be a great example where project
1 ‘Rising of the Robots’, Martin Ford. Pages 8-9, lines 28 -29; page 9, lines 1 & 2. Accessed 28 Jul, 2018.
- 2 ‘Rising of the Robots’, Martin Ford. Page 4, line 1, 2 & 3. Accessed 28 July, 2018.
- 3 ‘Peek Inside Tesla’s Robotic Factory’, Wired Damon Lavric. 16 Jul, 2013. www.wired.com/2013/07/tesla-plant-video/.
requirements are defined in advance of any project being executed. This doesn’t allow for extreme live learning or failing, as a lot of assumptions are made at the outset of the project. Building a property with a lean start-up approach could be very costly in time and capital, making ‘learning’ a very expensive lesson.
In start-up culture we can use the feedback loop illustrated below for a rollout of a very small experiment that can lead to an entirely different direction than originally planned. This allows for a high success rate of an idea or project, and its long-term success, as the loop should always being cycling. This enables the idea to always be developing and growing, which will in the end allow the project to keep up with or take over competition and new technological advances.
Here are some thought-provoking statements about what is ‘truth’:
● There is truth in everything, even in lies.
● Don’t believe everything you think.
● Those thoughts might not be your own and might not be true.We witness politicians, industry heads or market movers spin truth or lies regularly. September 2017 saw Jamie Dimon CEO of JP Morgan claim that Bitcoin was or is a fraud: “I’d fire them in a second. For two reasons: it’s against our rules, and they’re stupid. And both are dangerous.” 4Following the claim, it is alleged that shortly afterwards JP Morgan purchased this asset class for their clients. Furthermore, the Chicago Bank Option Exchange (CBOE) have applied to the Securities Exchange Commision to offer Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), at
4 ‘Jamie Dimon Slams Bitcoin as a ‘Fraud’ – Bloomberg’. 12 Sep, 2017. www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-12/jpmorgan-s-ceo-says-he-d-fire-traders-who-bet-on-fraud-bitcoin. Accessed 8 Aug, 2018.
least once in 10 Apr 2018 5, which failed, and now have again applied in June 2018.6 Notice that JP Morgan have quoted Bitcoin as a “holy grail for owners and investors”.
The moral is: don’t listen to what people say, instead see what they do. If we look at truth from the famous double slit experiment7 as an example it is the observer that creates this physical reality. If observation is subjective, so must be truth. The truth is whatever he or she believes to be true. It wasn’t so long ago that being gay was an unacceptable sexual orientation regarded as a sin but today it is far more accepted than it has ever been. It almost seems ridiculous today that a large number of people accepted as true that homosexuality was unacceptable. There is truth in both a belief in God (Creator) and a belief of atheism (no Creator). Both are right and wrong at the same time as they are beliefs and are not conclusive facts. The point here is that everyone has their own truth and that humans can be influenced in what they believe to be truth. “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” – Joseph Goebbels (Nazi Propaganda Minister) 8. This is evidence that reasons or beliefs behind mass murder in recent times can become an acceptable truth. The truth is therefore what you believe to be true.
The Point - the idea that would eventually become Groupon – was born out of founder Andrew Mason’s frustration in trying to cancel a mobile phone contract in 2006. In doing so Mason realised that there must be some way to leverage a large number of people’s collective bargaining power. In 2007 he launched The Point: a web platform based on the ‘tipping point’ principle that would utilise social media to bring people together to accomplish a goal. It gained only modest traction in Chicago, until a group of users decided their cause would be saving money. They wanted to round up people to buy the same product in order to receive a group discount. Co-founder Eric Lefkofsky wanted the company to pivot in order to focus entirely on this group buying, leading directly to the launch of Groupon in November 2008. So it was an accident or mistake that led to the birth of Groupon.9
Here we witness first-hand Eric Rice’s feedback loop (The lean start-up feedback loop): Build > Measure > Learn. If we looked at the two possible outcomes – fail or success - there would have been a very high probability of Mason’s idea going nowhere had Lefkosky not picked up and learnt from Masons’s mistake and pivoted.
Decision-making (DM) algorithms used by financial institutions for hedge funds can be seen in Ray Dalio Bridgewater, the most profitable hedge fund in 2015, overtaking
5 ‘Will the SEC Finally Approve Bitcoin ETFs? – Nasdaq.com’ 10 Apr, 2018. www.nasdaq.com/article/will-the-sec-finally-approve-bitcoin-etfs-cm946177. Accessed 8 Aug, 2018.
6 ‘CBOE Files with SEC for Bitcoin ETF – Nasdaq.com’ 9 Jul, 2018. www.nasdaq.com/article/cboe-files-with-sec-for-bitcoin-etf-cm988904. Accessed 8 Aug, 2018.
7 “The Double Slit Experiment explained.” www.interaliamag.org/blog/the-double-slit-experiment-explained/. Accessed 17 Aug, 2018.
8 ‘Joseph Goebbels – Wikipedia’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Goebbels. Accessed 28 July, 2018.
9 ‘Groupon – Wikipedia.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupon. Accessed 30 July, 2018.
George Soros10, and regarded the most successful of all time by Bloomberg. What gave Bridgewater the edge is that they have more than 30 years of recorded failures and principles to learn from, demonstrating that history repeats itself and that we can use previous mistakes as milestones of learning. Stock markets are emotionally driven as people are playing the game of buy and sell, even the most logical people in the game. However, humans have created algorithms to outperform the market, which is pure logic. Yes, they fail, but they win more than they lose and that is built into the algorithm, which can also learn and become more effective.
I personally believe that failure is vital in the process of learning and success, as I have proven in the above case studies. You cannot learn anything from being correct all the time and it’s rarely possible to be right all the time anyway. The art is to fail fast and learn fast and remove the emotion because when we fail we dwell on it and this can waste a few moments or even years of time, and time is the most precious commodity we have. This emotional failure can also stick with us without us realising and affect future decisions. We are hardwired to be emotional – it’s human nature – and that is why detaching our emotions in these circumstances is important for success.
If humans are taught that mistakes are a result of poor performance, then maybe they can learn something different: “failure is the process of learning”. Mistakes create pivots and pivots open the doors for success.
10 ‘Bridgewater’s Dalio Now Has the Most Profitable Hedge Fund ….’. 26 Jan, 2016. www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-26/bridgewater-s-dalio-trumps-soros-as-most-profitable-hedge -fund. Accessed 30 July, 2018.