Failure IS an option

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”

  1. 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.

  2. @Richard: Time to destroy the myth. From the Wikipedia article on Gene Kranz:

    During the Apollo 13 mission, Kranz never actually used the phrase “Failure is not an option,” which was created for the Ron Howard movie Apollo 13. However, he so liked the way the line reflected the attitude of mission control, that he used it as the title of his 2000 autobiography.

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