Three Lessons from Failure

Talib Morgan
3 min readOct 30, 2019
Photo from Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

I failed recently. I’m disappointed by it because I this failure occurred with one of my favorite clients. These things happen, sure, and it caused me some discomfort, initially. On the other hand, it has caused me to reflect on my role in what went wrong and I’d like to share what I learned.

My client is in an interesting space and in a unique — and perhaps enviable — position. Where lots of companies are readying themselves to pursue investments in emerging technologies, this company is pretty well experienced with them. They’ve been using various forms of technologies like AI, augmented reality, voice assistants and chatbots for a few years. They’re way ahead of the curve.

Even they could use some guidance, however. As artificial intelligence becomes more powerful, they want to be more deliberate in their application of the technology. They asked me to help them find a small shop that could help them develop an AI strategy. Naturally, I agreed to do so. And so began my blunder.

After searching for about six weeks, tapping my network, cold-emailing people, sending LinkedIn InMails, etc, I had very little to show for my efforts and my client was less than satisfied with my efforts. The project ended. So, what happened?

Lessons Learned

1. What people says they need isn’t always what they need

The very first mistake was not questioning the client’s foundational idea — the need to create an AI strategy. I’m of the mind that AI is just another technology — albeit a very powerful one. Most companies don’t generally create server strategies, 5G strategies or HTML strategies. AI is very much like those technologies in that it is a tool to support the implementation of an overarching strategy. By accepting the job as presented, I accepted a premise that needed to be worked through. I set myself up for failure.

2. The audience matters

This is marketing 101 and, still, I ignored it. I was so focused on the premise that I ignored the elephant in the room. The types of companies my client sought are strong at introducing processes and ideas that can get an organization up and going. What’s more challenging is bringing fresh, innovative thinking to an organization that’s already in the game. I didn’t consider that my client’s well-developed experience with innovative thought and new technologies made it more difficult to find a team that would suit their purposes. I forgot to consider the audience’s (my client) characteristics before developing an execution plan.

3. Always show your work

My third-grader brings home homework with instructions that ask her to solve a problem and “show your work.” I spent a lot of time on the project reaching out to people — shaking trees, if you will — trying to get AI consulting acorns to fall out. I came across some interesting options but not enough for the client to feel comfortable with the investment. I have to own that I didn’t spend enough time communicating what I was actually doing — who I was targeting with my outreach, who I spoke with and what the results of those conversations were. I didn’t show my work. As consultants whose work isn’t always visible (or valued), we can’t afford to trust that clients will know what we’re doing if we’re not telling them.

Three important concepts. I hope the clarity I developed around my mistakes help you as you move forward with your own work.



Talib Morgan

I am The Innovation Pro. I help enterprise teams innovate their customer experiences with emerging tech in an effort to drive customer commitment and growth.