success is never final; failure is never fatal

The only long-term advantage is speed of learning. The assumption is that agility is a good substitute for power and its usual symptoms of size, wealth, etc.

Software measures this by pace of release cycles. Military by pace of the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, act).

What is the right metric elsewhere and, more generally, in life?

As my classmates and I evaluate which organizations to join, I argue pace of learning is the single most important predictor of an organization’s success, so it is worthwhile to be obsessive about figuring out what the right one is for each organization.

Roughly, the way to decompose this question is

  • Figure out what the organization needs to learn (one of them is probably customer behavior … but there are other important things, too)
  • Figure out what is the key (likely iterative) behavior that enables the organization to learn this information
  • Assess how good the organization is at turning information into insights and adjusting actions (politics come in here!), and
  • Measure how long this whole cycle takes.

For life in general…I agree Drucker’s implication in Managing Oneself — we reflect very poorly, if at all. Thus, natural biases grant us the fuzzy reprieve to conclude we’re more successful than we actually are. As Regina Dugan, former Director of DARPA, once said — it’s ok to fail, but it’s fatal to not realize when you have failed.

Maybe the initial few habits to adopt are

  • At the end of every day, jot down 3 things you’ve learned that day
  • At the end of every week, look over the 21 things you’ve jotted down and decide if there needs to be any behavior change. Pick the most important behavior change and try it for the week; keep track of the other ones you’ve identified
  • For important decisions, write out the OODA loop — 1) what did you observe? 2) how did you orient / analyze the situation? 3) what was the decision? 4) what was the ultimate action? 5) initial reflections? Revisit each major decision monthly to see if there were any errors in the loop. Jot down recurring biases / errors

This stuff is boring. It’s plumbing. And oftentimes, it won’t seem like the most efficient use of time in the short term. It isn’t. It is in the long term.

To my future self — ignore those signals and carry on learning.

success is never final; failure is never fatal