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Erik Qualman – Digital Leadership

Failure is traditionally seen as bad. You not only encourage it, but you compel leaders to fail forward, fail fast and fail better. Can you tell us a little bit about your perspective on how failure relates to digital leadership?

In this digital age, the only way we can increase our rate of learning is to increase our rate of failure. Most likely, we aren’t going to get it right the first time, so it’s important to fail forward, fail fast, and fail better.

A lot of people talk about how you gain value or learning through experience. Well, that’s not really true. It’s not all experiences, but rather evaluated experience. Otherwise you might just continue to practice bad habits, so that’s what I mean by fail fast, fail forward. That’s the “fail better” part— evaluating what didn’t work and how to adjust in real-time based on that experience. In this day and age, the competition is fierce. You’re probably not going to get it right the first time, so you need to iterate, iterate, iterate, iterate based on evaluating experiences.

the “fail better” part— evaluating what didn’t work and how to adjust in real-time based on that experience. In this day and age, the competition is fierce. You’re probably not going to get it right the first time, so you need to iterate, iterate, iterate, iterate based on evaluating experiences

I use the example a lot when speaking of Gary Vaynerchuk. He owns Wine Library, a shop in Springfield, New Jersey, that sells wines both locally and also on the Internet. He started videos teaching people about wine and no one watched them at the beginning because they were more traditional, soft-spoken. Gary failed fast, but then he asked his fan base what to do, who said:

“Gary, we want the New Jersey Gary. We want you yelling. We want to hear Gary Vaynerchuk. We want to learn about wine in a fun way and that’s the boring way, from all the books I have and other people that speak about wine that know no more, probably, about wine than you do. What you have is a way to really get me excited to learn about wine in a fun way.”

He made adjustments and in three years went from selling four million dollars of wine to fifty million dollars. That is the entrepreneurial spirit of failing fast, failing forward, and failing better. The one advantage you have as an entrepreneur is you’re more nimble and can do that, whereas publicly traded large companies fear failure when they have to report to Wall Street. Failing better levels the playing field for all of these small businesses out there.

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Eric Qualman – International Speaker, Entrepreneur, Professor, and #1 Best Selling Author on Digital Trends, Motivation and Leadership.

Called a Digital Dale Carnegie, Erik Qualman was voted the 2nd Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry Potter’s J.K. Rowling. Fast Company ranks him as a Top 100 Digital Influencer and PC Magazine lists his blog as a Top 10 Social Media blog. A frequently requested international keynote speaker (42 countries), he has been featured on almost ever media outlet including 60 Minutes, The Wall Street Journal, and ABC News.

He is listed as a Top 50 MBA Professor and is no stranger to the executive suite, having served as the Head of Marketing at Travelzoo®; today he sits on several company boards. Yet, he may be best known for writing and producing the world’s most watched social media video.

Socialnomics was a finalist for the “Book of the Year.” Qualman was Academic All-Big Ten in basketball at Michigan State University and Erik was honored as the Michigan State University Alum of the Year.

He recently gave the commencement address to 4,000 people at the University of Texas and has given keynotes for Coach, Sony PlayStation, IBM, Facebook, Starbucks, M&M/Mars, Cartier, Montblanc, TEDx, Polo, UGG, Nokia, Google, and more.

He also holds a Guinness Book of World Record for the longest continuous podcast.

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