Matthew Ball shared this Bezos quote from a few years ago: “If you think [Fire Phone] is a big failure, we’re working on much bigger failures right now — and I am not kidding. Some of them are going to make the Fire Phone look like a tiny little blip.” Bezos was giving a warning to analysts and investors about his company’s willingness to take chances in the name of innovation. Part of playing bigger is this willingness to fail bigger.
Math problems with only one answer are easy. 2+2 reliably equals 4. The problem with real-life is it’s rarely so simple. Most problems have a whole set of potential answers, ranging from “epic fail” to “kind of ok I guess” to “nailed it” and everything in between. What counts isn’t just where our answer lands, but what we learn from the process of answering the question, and how we apply it going forward.
So the Fire Phone flopped. Big deal. And really, it was a very big, public, ugly ordeal. Nobody wants to face plant like that. But, it wasn’t the first slip and Bezos was quick to warn it wouldn’t be the last. It’s the big and bold statements that also have the big and bold payoffs when we get them right. If we can survive the damage we pick up along the way, we’re rewarded with a win or knowledge.
Living to fight another day is important, but we shouldn’t let all of the emphasis fall on living and ignore the fighting part. If Bezos is willing to take chances and fail, if Fire Phones can be a thing, we can give an idea a shot and see where it takes us. That’s the lesson behind the Fire Phone. Live to fight like a person willing to fail again tomorrow. Before we win bigger, we have to be willing to fail bigger. Take the shot, study the results, shoot again.