Failing Fast Isn’t Really Failure – It’s Accelerated Learning | Astro Teller

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Published on Feb 13, 2017

Astro Teller, the CEO aka ‘Captain of Moonshots’ of innovation factory X (formerly Google X) illuminates a critical difference: when undertaking a project, do you want to feel you’ve accomplished something, or do you want to accomplish it? His philosophy at X isn’t to start on the most exciting parts of a new project first, or satisfyingly cross the easy things off the to-do list – his first step is always to try to kill every project before he spends a dime on it. Teller wants to encourage fast failure, and he rewards it. Why? “Failure, seen properly, is just a recognition of fast learning,” he says. Having the critical thinking skills and courage to admit when you’re on the wrong track is what he calls “intellectual honesty”. Through two examples, Teller outlines this principle and makes a case for why innovators should run at the hardest problems of a project first. If you’re truly innovative, you’ll wake up every morning and excitedly think: ‘Hey! How are we going to kill our project today?’ Astro Teller is a Hertz Foundation fellow and recipient of the prestigious Hertz Foundation Grant for graduate study in the applications of the physical, biological and engineering sciences. With the support of the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, he pursued a PhD in artificial intelligence at Carnegie Mellon University. The Hertz Foundation mission is to provide unique financial and fellowship support to the nation’s most remarkable PhD students in the hard sciences. Hertz Fellowships are among the most prestigious in the world, and the foundation has invested over $200 million in Hertz Fellows since 1963 (present value) and supported over 1,100 brilliant and creative young scientists, who have gone on to become Nobel laureates, high-ranking military personnel, astronauts, inventors, Silicon Valley leaders, and tenured university professors. For more information, visit

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