Fail Fast, Recover Faster | Inquirer Business

Fail Fast, Recover Faster

/ 02:10 AM November 02, 2023

I love your article on tolerating failures (July 13, 2023), and my uncle allowed me to help bring about a culture of taking good risks in our family business,” says reader RN.

“We are into manufacturing, so making innovations is important, and we even have a small R and D team. But they are scared to waste money and they are also scared to innovate, so we followed your suggestion to come up with a maximum amount that we can afford to lose in the name of innovation.

You mentioned how the CEO of 3M encouraged their people to fail fast and rise again, but I wish it happens in the Philippines. Are there businesses that do this here or in other parts of Asia? Often mistakes are covered up and people get defensive when corrected.”


My reply

I am glad that you and your uncle are trying out the suggestions. You may not perfect your system the first time, but learn what works for you. Now let us discuss three businesses, two in the Philippines and one in Hongkong, where employees are encouraged to fail fast and learn from mistakes.


In May 2020, Max’s Group president and CEO Robert Trota realized that because dine-in sales were adversely curtailed, they had to focus on takeout and delivery. Two months into the pandemic, their sales in the latter modes “definitely doubled and even tripled,” he told the Philippine Franchise Association. “I rechanneled everything into that platform, whether it’s the website, my call center, delivery riders, operations people. Everybody’s focused.”

“You’re not going to get your sales back overnight, so you need to work on what you can achieve,” Trota said. “Step back a little bit, focus, be very agile … Try what you can, but if you fail, fail fast … Then try again.”

Failing fast and correcting course is also the philosophy of Janice Lee, CEO of Hongkong-based streaming service Viu, which started with Korean content but has since branched out to other fare. In 2019, just before the pandemic, Viu shut down its operations in India, despite investing heavily in there.

“No one has a crystal ball to know that you are going to be a success in any market,” Lee told Forbes Asia. “You have to keep validating, and course correcting. If you fail, fail fast; move on; course correct.”

Two years later, Viu is the second-largest streaming company not just in Hongkong but also in Southeast Asia, with seven million paying subscribers, nipping at the heels of Disney Plus’ 7.2 million.

Viu overtook American behemoth Netflix despite its focus on the Asian market. Forbes Asia estimates that Viu has “almost 60 million active monthly users across 16 markets, including the Middle East and South Africa.”


Blogger and technologist Zayd Tolentino does not identify his employer, but in a post on Medium on Jan. 4, 2020, entitled “Fail Fast, Recover Faster,” he said, “fail fast is a philosophy that I learned working for the biggest telco in the Philippines … In an environment where failure is not just alright, but encouraged, it helped me grow and get to where I am now. We were allowed to experiment, no matter the cost. From a rough idea to prototype, we were able to deliver fast. We did not go through many levels of approval; if we want to try something out, we just go and do it. I often say, ‘It’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission’ … Experimentation [works]—as long as you deliver when it matters the most.

“Failing doesn’t always mean bad. It simply means that an idea doesn’t work or there’s no business case for it. The underlying work is never a throwaway. Consider [it an] experience point. If you provide a safe space for people to fail … they get rid of the fear of losing their jobs. When they’re no longer afraid, they’re going to be more creative. Give them freedom to fail; they will learn … and what they learn, they apply. Your organization improves every time this happens.”

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her print book “All in the Family Business” at Lazada or Shopee, or e-book at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected].

TAGS: All in the Family

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.