July 20–24, 2015
Portland, OR

Fear of failing fast: How to avoid sabotaging your success

Leslie Hawthorn (Red Hat), Amye Scavarda (Red Hat)
1:40pm–2:20pm Wednesday, 07/22/2015
Craft Portland 252
Average rating: ***..
(3.71, 14 ratings)
Slides:   1-PDF 

Prerequisite Knowledge

Knowledge of business concepts such as post-mortems and creating innovative teams is helpful, but not essential. Studies will be cited for audience participants to read more on their own, and all jargon will be defined during the session.


While it’s easy to pay lip service to the idea of innovating by failing fast, humans are both neurally geared and financially incentivized to avoid failure. We’ve all heard the tales of woe: blameless reviews that were anything but blameless; encouragement to work on an experimental project with punishment being the primary result of its failure; and the associated fear of doing anything new, speculative or untried. The results are simple: individuals, teams, and companies that stagnate slowly.

So how can we create an environment that makes failing fast safe for the participants and their organizations? In this talk, we’ll cover key strategies for creating an environment that fosters rapid innovation in your organization, including:

  • Conducting effective and truly blameless project post-mortems
  • Creating an organizational culture or failing the right way
  • Measuring the impacts of positive failure – and failing to fail – on your organization’s bottom line.

Attendees will leave this presentation with concrete strategies to conquer their own fear of failure, and how to help their organizations do the same.

Photo of Leslie Hawthorn

Leslie Hawthorn

Red Hat

An internationally known community manager, speaker and author, Leslie Hawthorn has spent the past decade creating, cultivating, and enabling open source communities. She created the world’s first initiative to involve pre-university students in open source software development, launched Google’s #2 Developer Blog, and received an O’Reilly Open Source Award in 2010. She’s well known for creating cultures of collaboration and helping newcomers to the open source community thrive.

In August 2013, she joined Elasticsearch as director of developer relations, where she manages the company’s outreach efforts. She works from Elasticsearch’s EU HQ in Amsterdam, The Netherlands – when not out and about gathering user praise and pain points. You can follow her adventures on Twitter.

Photo of Amye Scavarda

Amye Scavarda

Red Hat

Amye Scarvada is an implementer of sanity in fast-paced chaos. She is pleasant, cheerful, and competent in a sea of snark. She’s at Phase2 as a DevOps project manager, expanding out the world one little website + infrastructure build at a time. Previously, she was at Acquia, building out a Customer Success program for new customers to get comfortable and get what they need to get started. Amye helps technologists think about what they’re doing, and helps explain it to clients in ways that they like hearing. She’s written and presented on project management since 2009. She still likes it.