The second cohort of DigiReactor coaching set participants started their journey in digital service development at the beginning of November. Most of them have already an idea of what kind of service or product they want to develop. As they proceed in their journey, the idea will probably evolve – maybe even change.

At best the students learn to question, not only the solution they are developing but also their understanding and perceptions of the needs and life of their potential customers. This entails learning: one starts with an assumption, a hypothesis of what would be needed, and what would be a good way to deliver the service. Then one goes “out to the world” and gets more information. One may realize that the hypotheses need to be changed. These iterative rounds of learning may entail systematic research, development, and testing or they can be done in a more ad hoc manner.

In the entrepreneurship lectures, we teach the students the principles of lean start-up. One essential part of that is “failing fast” and learning from each failure. Failure is a quite strong and negative word, but the main idea behind the “failing fast” approach is to have an open mind, and not to get stuck to one’s favorite ideas, in case they are proven not to work.

On the other hand, we teach persistence – that famous Finnish Sisu – in entrepreneurship courses as well. Is there a contradiction? This is something we started to wonder about when listening to the discussions in our first workshop. How would one know when to skip the idea and try something else? And when to stick to it and just double-check that relevant aspects have been considered? That is, the old aspects are revised if needed and new ones are made visible.

The answer we found online, was that a failing fast approach is useful when one is doing something that has not been done before. On the other hand, if one has already gained evidence that something is working, or has been developed to become a practice, it might work. Then one should be persistent and give it still another try.

All in all, there is no bulletproof recipe on how to create a successful solution. There are a bunch of methods and procedures to follow, but in the end, being in the right place, at a right time with the right people and the right solution might appear. This has a lot to do with luck as well. So, it is not necessarily “either-or” with failing fast or being persistent. It is mostly about leaning the right time to apply the right approach.

If you got interested, please have a look at:

Satu Aaltonen
Project Researcher
Turku School of Economics
University of Turku

Antti Tuomisto
Turku School of Economics
University of Turku