Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Risking Failure

The Risk of Failing

In the life of Texas Tech Physicians, we have great successes and we have moments of failure—or at least, at times, disappointing results. That’s OK! I don’t have a problem admitting the truth. We are certainly not perfect. But, the point is we keep introducing new things and trying to innovate.

It is a bit of a cliché, but we are constantly reminded that in Silicon Valley, one of the principles is to “fail early and often.” In fact, Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz, psychologists and career counselors, offer a popular course at Stanford University called “Fail Fast, Fail Often.”

“Don’t be afraid to learn to ride your bicycle,” I remember my parents telling me. “It’s OK if you fall. That’s how you learn.”  

Astute teachers say, “Don’t be afraid to ask what you might consider a dumb question. There are no dumb questions and other people are probably wondering the same thing, too!” Now, that is a good teacher. It is how we learn. How can the student learn if he or she will not risk failure?

My wife and I have five precious grandchildren and, at times, it seems like the questions never stop.  Yet, we love to hear them. Except maybe, “When are we going to get there?” on the drive from Dallas to Lubbock. Just saying. But, my point is kids can ask a thousand questions. It’s how they learn.  

Back to Texas Tech Physicians, I think it is good for us to try different things. Get out into our clinics and departments—experiment with new things and even make mistakes. In doing so, we benefit from unexpected experiences and opportunities.

Of course, I’m not talking about anything that would endanger anyone.  But, say, you want to know: are we more successful in collecting the patient’s portion of the payment before or after the visit? With the permission of your supervisor, run a two-week test and compare the results. That’s but one example.  Can we do patient education before the patient arrives via the portal? Can we give patients a form and let them record blood pressures at home at various times to get around “White Coat Hypertension?” 

Although much more dramatic and consequential than the decisions most of us face by a factor of about 1000, I read recently about President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He definitely followed the notion of “Fail Fast, Fail Often.” At no time was this better illustrated than how he addressed depressed economic times in our country. He did it by breaking with tradition. People were hungry, out of work and, in many cases, desperate. Critics of his actions would have a field day, but he got the nation back on its feet. How did he do it? Well, he answered that in 1932—Roosevelt described his approach as: “Above all, try something.”

I'm saying the same thing. Have a great week.