Fail Better: Design Smart Mistakes and Succeed Sooner. Anjali Sastry, Kara Penn. Harvard Business Review Press.

Fail Better: Design Smart Mistakes and Succeed Sooner Book Cover Fail Better: Design Smart Mistakes and Succeed Sooner
Anjali Sastry, Kara Penn
Harvard Business Review Press
November 4, 2014

Whether you’re rolling out a new product from a city-view office or rolling up your sleeves to deliver a social service in the field, learning why and how to embrace failure can help you do better, faster. Smart leaders, entrepreneurs, and change agents design their innovation projects with a key idea in mind: ensure that every failure is maximally useful.

In Fail Better, Anjali Sastry and Kara Penn show how to create the conditions, culture, and habits to systematically, ruthlessly, and quickly figure out what works, in three steps:

  • Launch every innovation project with the right groundwork
  • Build and refine ideas and products through iterative action
  • Identify and embed the learning

Fail Better teaches you how to design your efforts to test the boundaries of your thinking, explore crucial interdependencies, and find the factors that can shift results from just acceptable to groundbreaking – or even world-changing. Practical instructions intertwined with compelling real-world examples show you how to:

  • Make predictions and map system relationships ahead of time so you can better assess results
  • Establish how much failure you can afford
  • Prioritize project activities for disconfirmation and iteration
  • Learn from a reaction step by collecting and examining the right data
  • Support efficient, productive habits to link action and reflection
  • Distill, share, and embed the lessons from every success and failure

You may be a Fortune 500 manager, scrappy start-up innovator, social impact visionary, or simply leading your own small project. If you aim to break through without breaking the bank – or ruining your reputation – this book is for you.

Anjali Sastry is senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her research investigates global health delivery and management, applying systems thinking and practical, business-based approaches in low-resource settings. She has conducted numerous field studies and collaborative action projects in Africa and Asia and advises and teaches internationally.

Kara Penn is cofounder and principal consultant at Mission Spark, where she works on the front lines of practical management to implement new approaches in complex settings. She has led award-winning community collaborative; designed, managed, and evaluated multiyear social change initiatives; and guided more than sixty NGOs, social enterprises, corporations, and foundations. Several prestigious fellowship programs, including Coro, Watson, and Forte, have recognized her leadership and community contributions.