The Failure Fallacy and How to Avoid It

“Fail fast” is a mantra that has followed us since the mid-sixties.It captures the idea that most businesses must either transform more quickly or get unstuck from a world in which sunk costsare driving strategy. “Fail fast” really is about iterating and improving and getting unstuck more quickly, more than it is about failing. This point was on full display at LEAP22 this spring, where all eyes were on emerging technologies.

The event focused on smart cities, homomorphic encryption, generative artificial intelligence (AI), and the Metaverse. It got me wondering about whether we really must “fail” to achieve enterprise transformation and success, or whether agility and resilience matter just as much, if not more, than the promise of the technology itself.

None these ideas are easily put into a sure-fire formula or bottled for a conference stage to demonstrate or explain what it takes for an organization to transform successfully. I was delighted, therefore, that LEAP created many opportunities to explore broader tactics for success, moving beyond the emerging technologies to discussions around strategy, oversight,the governance of those technologies, and highlighting how to move fast without breaking the organization.

The Fallacy of Failing

Not every setback is a failure, and you don’t have to fail first to eventually succeed in digital transformation. It is possible to succeed, even on the first try, if you know how to stack the odds in your favor. Most ambitious digital transformation projects fail because the odds are not automatically stacked in favor of technology adoption. Key to getting the odds reassigned, is designing work models and teams that are themselves agile and resilient, that identify and reward quicker assessments and changes, and allow for in-the-field feedback and adaptations. For many, the change-based behaviors are challenging to manage, such that even the world’s largest brands have thrown in the towel early, sometimes signaling that failure was anticipated and mostly expected.

Don’t fall into the trap! You and your organization do not need to fail. But you do need to understand that today’s challenges are different, and accordingly organizations must put agility and resilience front and center. Doing so allows the organization to embrace setbacks, stay positive and keep moving forward. Continual innovation, the right technical expertise, and the right people can be the answer to effectively integrating emerging technologies into the enterprise.

Continual Innovation

Many plans for digital transformation and the adoption of new technologies imply that there is a miracle endpoint to what lies ahead. Nothing can be further from the truth. There will never be a moment in your company’s market success (or your career, for that matter) where you can rest on your laurels. Instead, continual learning, improvement, and innovation are the new normal and how organizations thrive.

An environment of continual evolution and change remains focused on the goal, but also is responsive to what is happening outside of the organization and how products are performing, including how consumers think and feel, what the market needs and values, and how most effectively and efficiently to deliver on those business drivers. If this sounds like a tall order, it is. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

When incremental change becomes part of your organization’s DNA, it allows the enterprise to be highly responsive to consumer needs. It also enables creativity and freedom, which are key ingredients for innovation and competitive advantage.

Technical Expertise and the Right People

Emerging, or frontier technologies have been on our minds for decades. For the first time in history, we see technology range at incomprehensive levels and adoption at speeds we could only imagine five years ago. For digital transformation to succeed, you need the technical expertise required to implement the technology and the right people, experience, change management insights, leadership, and a culture of properly weighing the risks and opportunities that technology represents.

The skills that accompany new technologies are not so new, but they must be applied in new ways. At this early stage, many boards of directors and executives are looking for a non-disruptive way to adopt disruptive technologies. To this end, we see organizations turning in the first instance to in-house resources working with boutique consultancies that can assemble innovative and experienced teams to execute against the business and technology realities, working in context and to find specific ways to augment existing capabilities.


Three days of leading names in technology with the most exciting new start-ups and creators and cutting-edge innovationsat LEAP22 was an excellent reminder that we all need to move fast. It’s rare for anyone to realize high success by waiting for all the conditions to be just right before starting. While failing fast seems to be an established mantra for many, take it from me and the many faces at LEAP22: this really means that agility, resilience, and technical capabilities are a much better path to success.


Written By Kristina Podnar. Kristina is A Digital Policy Innovator, Policy Innovator, Author and an Advisor with The Cantellus Group.

These blogs by TCG Advisors express their views and insights. The strength and beauty of our team is that we encompass many opinions and perspectives, some of which will align, and some which may not. These pieces are selected for their thoughtfulness, clarity, and humor. We hope you enjoy them and that they start conversations!