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Strategic insights
Ensuring Success

Written by on August 15, 2004

Success is the single most important thing that you must ensure when designing a new application, starting a project or in general working with people. I am not talking about success for you, but success for them.

People who have experienced success are much more open to try other things, than people who have failed. It takes a lot mental effort to keep trying, when all you experience is failure.

The Paper Airplane Test

To give you an example of the importance of success there is a very simple thing you can do to experience it hands-on.

  • Bring together 10 friends, co-workers etc. and give them each 1 piece of blank paper and a pen.
  • Start talking about something (it does not matter what) for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Then ask them to take the piece of paper and use it to make a paper airplane.

Now you will experience how devastating failure is, and the greatness of feeling successful.

You can see this because during the 5-10 minutes talk, some of the ten people would have started fiddling with this piece of paper. They might have folded it or they might have rolled it around the pen etc. These people would be unable to make the paper airplane and they experience failure.

  • Take it a step further and give everyone a new piece of paper. Present them with a model of a complex paper airplane and ask them to make that.

Now you will really see how important success is. The persons who failed the first attempt would be reluctant to start on another. They would have a feeling inadequacy, because they feel they lack the basics. Also their hearth and mind would still be fixed on the first attempt, so they would have to mentally change their state of mind in order to start building the second type of airplane.

Many of them would fail again.

People with success

For those who experienced success building the first airplane, everything is great. They got a number of successes. It started when you ask them make the first airplane. They immediately got sense of success and pride, because they had the tools needed to start working. They probably even laughed at those who had destroyed their piece of paper.

The second success was experienced during the building of the airplane. Most people are thrilled when they create something.

The third success was experienced when the paper airplane was finished - and they would demonstrate their airplane with pride and laugh if it crashes.

Success is so powerful than even if the airplane was unable fly (which is essentially a project failure) it does not matter to them. They have already experienced success so it just a glitch.

For those who experienced failure the same situation would have been a catastrophe. At first they destroyed their piece of paper and when you gave them a new piece, they were not able to get it to fly.

This is a very simple example, but the concept is the same when you are working as a project manager or building a product. You must ensure that the people gets a feeling if success as very first thing.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.


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