Hugh MacLeod has written a great little piece pointing out that bravado about “Failure is not an option” is just stupid. I also like some of the comments from readers:
- “Failure is not an option” people are invariably the ones least willing to deliver the intellectual and physical juice to lessen the probability of failure.
- “Failure is not an option” people are invariably the same people who said, two paragraphs earlier, that they want bold, risk-taking approaches.
Failure is always an option, which of course you want to avoid, But if failure is inevitable, then fail fast — and then adapt.
4 Replies to “Failure IS an option”
The phrase is generally attributed to Gene Kranz, the NASA controller tasked with saving the Apollo 13 crew. He said it to motivate a team working around the clock to save the lives of their colleagues.
Kranz knew all about failure, after the Apollo 1 fire. I’m fairly sure Kranz wasn’t in denial; he was just trying to say ‘we won’t be able to live with ourselves if we stuff this up’. In those circumstances, I’d say some hype is understandable and even desirable.
I don’t think the people who use the slogan nowadays are facing quite the same circumstances. Kranz was trying to save three lives and possibly the US space programme itself, not re-brand a salad dressing that’s fallen out of favour.
Context is everything, folks.
@Richard: You’re 100% correct about context. I’ve added linkage to your comment — and I’ll also mention here the link you just emailed me to the superb, superb short film Thanksgiving With the Kranzes, a spoof of the movie Apollo 13.
@Richard: Time to destroy the myth. From the Wikipedia article on Gene Kranz:
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