09 November 2017

How failure builds success

Strategy and design are more entwined than some people think. But what does a digital strategist take away from a design conference?

Geert Bosmans
Geert Bosmans
Digitaal strateeg

Strategy vs design

A couple of weeks ago I joined our Creative Director Jonathan on a trip to Design Matters, a conference on Digital Design in Copenhagen. The conference mixed speakers of interesting companies such as SpotifyUberLinkedinInstagramNetflix and Google with workshops and hands-on exercises.

We all create solutions

"But Geert, aren’t you a strategist?" you might wonder, "isn’t Design Matters a conference that focuses on digital design, for designers?"

Well, yes and no. Let me explain by taking a look at the definition of strategy and the definition of design, so we can clear some things out.

  • strategy - /ˈstratɪdʒi/ - A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.
  • design - /dɪˈzʌɪn/ - A plan produced to show the working or look and functionof an object before it is made.

Both strategy and design are about identifying problems, gaining an empathic understanding of the problem, analysing causes and constraints, and creating a plan to tackle these problems. Both strategy and design are in the business of creating solutions.


Embrace failure!

So, now we got that out of the way, what was the key learning I, as a strategist, got out of Design Matters? The main topic of the conference was ‘Embrace Failure’, and that's also what I want to talk about in this blog post. Of course my perspective would be different than that of a designer, but our goals would be the same.

Rahul Sen, Design Manager at Spotify (photo by Design Matters)

We’ve all heard it before, mantras such as “fail fast, fail often” or “fail better”. In our culture failing is considered as a negative thing, while success is positive. From our childhood on, we are taught to avoid failing, and that success equals winning.

But as Rahul Sen, Design Manager at Spotify states:

“Success is an elusive destination. Failures are the crucial signposts getting us there.” 


Failing helps us grow

It’s all about the process, not the result. Without failing we wouldn’t learn, failing gives us the ability to evolve and to grow. So we should embrace failure and cultivate a (company) culture where failure can be viewed as one of the steps toward success.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.

J.K. Rowling

As a client, you might think: “Sounds reasonable, but I hire you guys to provide me with the right solutions. Solutions that help us achieve our goals, and bottom-line, generate more revenue. So why would we pay an agency to fail?”


Failure is never the result

Failure is of course never the end result. But I believe in involving the client in the entire process and exploring different possible scenarios, together. From the development of different hypotheses until the execution. At Intracto, we believe in a true partnership, with open collaboration, transparency and shared goals.

Photo by Design Matters

Faster testing, better results

Intracto is a digital agency at its core. Digital gives us the abilities to faster test and validate hypotheses, to create prototypes or MVP’s (Minimal Viable Product), to measure progress through metrics and to scale solutions that proof to work. The end result will be tested and tried. 

Be proud of what you learn, not what you build.

Sam Horner, Product Design at Netflix

And yes, during this process some failure is likely to happen, but both client and agency will learn, we will evolve, we will grow and together we will create better solutions.

We believe by including the client in the entire process, we will build better and longer lasting relationships, based on mutual trust. We need to embrace failure as an important step in that journey, but it will never be the result.