fail early fail often


Noothgrush – Dianoga

“Let’s just put these blocks up,” says 4-year-old Jacques. “I think this will probably work. Be careful, Corrine.”

“I know,” says Corinne, who is also 4.

With focused intensity, Jacques and Corinne work to balance and secure two semicircular wooden blocks atop two long, straight ones.

Whoa, careful, it’s leaning!

The tower collapses to the carpeted floor at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School.

They work the problem.

It is Silicon Valley, after all. Fail early, fail often, kids. Iterate. Collaborate.

Jacques makes a pitch for stability.

“Corinne, I think if we just put a little on each side and used the right amount where mine was, it would work,” he says. “OK?”

“OK, let’s try,” says Corrine. “OK!”

The tower grows.

Then, to paraphrase Homer, the tower falls thunderously and the blocks clatter about.

“It keeps falling down! Maybe a little higher,” Jacques says, resisting the urge to lose patience.

The block party is on. Soon other kids wander over to try to help build this hour’s great random structure.

“If we can’t do it, we could build something else!”

“OK, what?”

Two blocks or four? Big or small? What shape? This is negotiation and collaboration, pre-K style.

“Those are the kinds of skills that we need later on,” says Jennifer Winters, the Bing school’s director. “We’ll need to learn to work together on projects, to collaborate, to bounce ideas off one another.”

Before Minecraft, The Blocks Were Made Of Wood

Photos: Eric Westervelt/NPR

Second Committee Meeting

Last week was my second committee meeting and it went very well.  After the first committee meeting I knew that I needed to work twice as hard to show my work and logic to back up what I’m doing. I created visuals throughout the time between the two meetings to help me think through the logic and figure out what I needed to do. That really helped and I had a lot more to show the committee during this meeting. 

After the first meeting I had a long list of things I needed to address and needed to show. After the second meeting I had three major things to figure out and that’s it! Obviously there is a lot more than just three things to do to finish out this project but only three things that I presented in my meeting were concerning or overlooked. There’s a lot to do to finish the project and a lot to do before my oral defense (only in 4 weeks!). 

The second meeting had me stoked to get a lot of work done, however… once I started to work I stalled. I had some paralysis. I started thinking about the amount of time I had left for the project and the started thinking that I don’t have the time to fail at anything. We say in the program “fail early, fail often” because you learn a lot from failing. I guess I forgot that mentality because I was afraid to fail. 

That fear kept me from doing much of anything for a little while. After some good talks from some good friends and my chair advisor I got going again. It’s silly to think failing is a bad thing. Any information is helpful and shows progress. Not doing anything was like not moving around a pitch black room that you know has furniture and light switch but you don’t know where any of it is located. The only thing that you can do in that room to learn something is to take a step in any direction. As soon as you bash your shin into a table you’ve learned something about the room… it might hurt, but you’ve learned something.

I went back to my plan and broke it apart to make the pieces manageable and less intimidating. I created a new place in my house to work (changing location even a little bit seems to recharge my batteries) and started analyzing my new data. After just a couple of days I’ve made some good progress and I’m feeling much better. Still a long way to go to make up the time lost but I’m on the right track.