Some philosophers of science would say that, if you can't fail, you can't learn. If you've got a theory of how the world's going to work, and the world works that way, you haven't learned anything new. And this idea of emphasizing and embracing failure is important in the business world as well.
Tom Eisenmann is the Howard H. Stevenson Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School.
Here, Tom heads up many entrepreneurial initiatives, teaches the MBA elective Entrepreneurial Failure, and the MS/MBA core courses Technology Venture Immersion and Launch Lab. In recent years, he has also served as Chair of Harvard's MBA Elective Curriculum, and as course head of The Entrepreneurial Manager. His latest book is “Why Startups Fail: A New Roadmap for Entrepreneurial Success.”
This episode covers entrepreneurship and startups and what failure can teach us about success.Greg and Tom discuss false starts, Dropbox, scaling too fast and balancing confidence with humility.
What happens after failure
So you want to find that middle where you can actually, understand the failure, your role in it, and that just takes some emotional distance. It usually takes a matter of weeks or months of - when you're alternating between rumination and distraction. If it's a hundred percent rumination, you're going to make yourself crazy, perhaps clinically depressed.
And no one wants that. If it's a hundred percent distraction, so to go side projects or do yoga, whatever it is, you never going to make sense of what happened. So you have to alternate between the two and let the emotions subside, find your role in the failure, and crucially be able to explain it to people.
Helping students find jobs
Pick the one that most lights you up at this point, because basically this is a long game. And if you're going to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to master management challenges at every step. And they're very different at every step and in no single job where you're going to learn everything you need to know.
Entrepreneurship & management
[Entrepreneurship] It's a way of managing when resources are constrained and when you're doing something fundamentally new. And that's a pretty good description of a challenge that almost any manager in any kind of organization is going to face at some stage, whether it be a government agency, a not-for-profit, a big corporation.
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