In the latest Harvard Business Review, I made the argument that failures can be useful in that they teach us where our assumptions are wrong, expose dead ends, and generally can give us something of an education. In highly uncertain environments, failures are both useful and unavoidable. It was interesting, therefore, to run across an analysis of Google's failed projects over time, together with a quote issued by the company regarding each failed venture. What is interesting is Google's philosophy of launching early and quickly, and their perhaps too-quick closure of some products. It is also interesting that founders of several hot startup companies (Foursquare and Twitter come to mind) cut their teeth and gained technical exposure by experimenting at Google.
I'm often asked by companies how many experiments are needed to find a good "hit rate" of successes. If Google is any indication, the ratio is pretty high. That being said, what company would not be pleased to have maintained dominance in search, toppled the Blackberry in market share for smart phones at neck-breaking speed, hosted millions of e-mail users with gmail, and helped millions of us find our way with Google maps?
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Publication/Copyright: Harvard Business Review