On the surface, the word “failure” is a damning one. You failed to hit your quarterly sales goal or you failed to stay within budget on your latest marketing campaign. Failure equates to a shortfall of expectations: the objective was X, but the result was sub-X. Regardless of context, failure comes with a bad feeling—one that most of us would rather avoid.
At JXM, we don’t avoid failure: we plan for it. Embrace it. Heck, we even advocate for it.
This isn’t another piece about how “every failure is an opportunity.” Anyone who’s ever come up short on their goals knows that failure presents a chance to grow and improve. That’s obvious. Instead, we choose to look at failure through an engineering lens. How far can we push something until it fails—and what’s the significance of that barrier?
If you don’t push the limits and discover the point of failure, how can you be certain that your efforts are exceptional? We need to change our perception of failure from a backward-looking assessment to a forward-looking objective.
We don’t see failure in binary;
we see it as a test of limits.
The problem with failure (in the traditional sense)
The biggest problem with the concept of failure is that it’s often contextualized in a binary to define a specific outcome. You hit your sales goal or you didn’t. You stayed within budget or you didn’t. You failed or you succeeded. By nature, this binary makes failure a negative.
So, let’s redefine failure outside of that binary.
Think of failure as a threshold: the point at which you’ve pushed an idea as far as it can go, to where it has diminishing returns or loss of value. Identifying that point doesn’t draw a line between success and failure. Instead, it serves as an indicator of maximum value. You want to hit the point of failure because, until you do, you can’t be sure you’re getting as much as possible out of an idea.
At JXM, we push for failure as a way of understanding our limits. This is especially true in our creative processes and approach. Concept, messaging, execution, monitoring, strategy—it’s so important to establish a threshold for failure, to understand what’s possible, relevant, effective, impactful and applicable.
We seek to engineer the best solutions for our clients by pursuing failure—then using it as a buffer, instead of as an assessment. We don’t see failure in binary; we see it as a test of limits.
Failure establishes safe parameters
In design and engineering, there’s a commonly understood approach to failure, where it’s actually important to the overall function of a product. Vehicles, devices and things we interact with every single day are designed to have a failure point. Failure is built-in to both enable us and to protect us.
The Bugatti Veyron is one of the fastest production roadsters ever made, topping out at 267.8 mph. For perspective, at top speed, the tires will begin to disintegrate after 15 minutes—which is okay, because you’ll run out of gas in 12 minutes. It’s a marvel of engineering: from the lug nuts that hold the wheels in place to the aerodynamics that enable its insane top speed. It’s also the product of intentional failure.
How do you produce a car capable of going that fast? By pushing every critical system that governs it to the breaking point. You can’t just throw a bunch of turbochargers under the hood and hammer down on the gas pedal to set a land speed record. The engineers behind the Veyron used failure limits to assemble a car so finely tuned that every part works in concert to not only break records, but to ensure the safety of the driver and vehicle at top speed.
It’s this level of failure-driven precision engineering that JXM strives to bring our clients. We’re not wrenching together a bunch of components into a slap-dash campaign and filling the gas tank with dollar bills. We’re testing the limits of each creative component to assemble something that’s precision-tuned: ready to push the limits other agencies are afraid to even discover.