Experiment

I’m going through The Startup Manual By Steve Blank and Bob Dorff. It isn’t really a book that you read from cover-to-cover. It is more like an engine repair manual. The engine diagram on the front is an appropriate nod to the book.

In the book, the authors give their Customer Development Manifesto. Rule No. 3 is: Failure is an integral part of the search. While many people take this to mean that being not successfully completing a task helps you move forward, the definition is more nuanced than that.

Experiment

When you run an experiment, you start with a hypothesis. This is your educated guess as to how the world is, and what will happen when you run your experiment. Then you start running experiments. In chemistry, you might add one drop of a chemical to water, then two, then three. Each time you add a drop, you hypothesize that the liquid will change colour. Every time the water stays clear, your hypothesis proves false. This is the type of failure that startups seek to explore. By running many experiments that reflect an assumption on how customers will respond, you will not see the customer change for most of them. You might put one hundred ‘drops’ into the water, and on the one-hundred-and-first drop, everything could change. Or eventually, you might give up, realizing that your hypothesis is wrong and that you have to look in another direction.

“Failure is an integral part of the search”[pg 33], but this type of failure isn’t the type of failure that means you were unsuccessful. It just says that you learned that your hypothesis doesn’t prove true in this specific circumstance. You weren’t right, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t always be correct.