Why “Fail Fast” Is the Wrong Approach for Social Change Efforts

Phil Henderson, Surdna Foundation CEOLast week I shared that my most recent podcast guests have been almost mystically aligned with the work I’m currently focused on.

I say “almost mystical” because the interview that just went live at the Chronicle wasn’t a guest I had sought out (which wouldn’t have been mystical at all, but intentional). Instead, my interview with Phil Henderson was instigated by his foundation’s Communications Director reaching out to me – another case of serendipity being in part about simply showing up.

And then, from the moment we began our online conversation, Phil’s story and approach captivated me. 

Many of you who are involved in social change efforts, especially those involved in the world of social enterprise, are familiar with the Fail Fast mantra born of the Lean Startup approach. And while the jury is still out as to whether failing fast is even a good idea for enterprises that are strictly driven by financial profit, Phil’s wisdom suggests that the concept might have even less place in the world of social change – that the desire for speed goes directly counter to creating meaningful impact in communities.

What does Phil suggest, then?


Pure and simple. Be smart, be strategic, be values-driven, and have patience to allow things to emerge and unfold.

You can listen to the interview online or download the MP3 to your player at this link.  I cannot recommend this episode enough!

One Response to Why “Fail Fast” Is the Wrong Approach for Social Change Efforts

  1. Excellent podcast. Lots of wisdom here. And as the relatively new ED of a small 501(c)(3) that has been hanging by a thread for several years, I so appreciate the values-driven, patience-infused approach to change. Well worth the 30 minutes. Thank you, Hikdy!