Eric Ries is a bit of a modern day Socrates with his school of the “5 Why’s” (thanks Katie). Entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School explains this interrogatory concept which is about embracing failure 5 levels deep. Looking at a failure and digging layer after layer into its component causes. He provides a number of fine insights such as the fact that many engineering problems turn out to be rooted in human problems. But what I really appreciated was his prescription for turning it around in a measured yet effective manner…

  • “When we run into a problem – when we have a server crash or a product that doesn’t work – we want to get to the root cause of what caused it to fail and then fix that root cause. Behind every seeming technical problem is actually a human problem waiting to be found.”

Ries’ commentary is very close to the ‘Palchinsky Principles’ of Peter Palchinsky’s.  Tim Harford describes them in his book ‘Adapt:  Why Success Always Starts With Failure’

“What Palchinsky realised was that most real-world problems are more complex than we think.  They have a human dimension, a local dimension, and are likely to change as circumstances change.  His method for dealing with this could be summarised as three ‘Plachinsky principles’” which Ries’ ‘5 Why’s’ provide a pragmatic way to put into action…

  1. Variation – Seek out new ideas and try new things.
  2. Survivability – When trying something new, do it on a scale where failure is survivable.
  3. Selection – Seek out feedback and learn from your mistakes as you go along.”