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Risk and failure

COW Forums : Apple Final Cut Pro X Debates

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Mike Parfit
Risk and failure
on Jul 1, 2011 at 5:17:08 pm

It's always bothered me that we -- humans in general -- have a hard time accepting that stunning creative risks, which are so highly praised when they succeed, are inevitably accompanied by occasions of stunning failure.

Apple has always seemed to be a risk-taking company. One assumes that most of the failures are hidden in the folds of the company's legendary cloak. But now one has emerged into light it should probably never have seen.

All of us in this business, who either engage in attempts at creativity ourselves or spend our lives trying to shepherd it -- or both -- should be able to recognize this phenomenon in this case. So should Apple. It's part of the territory. It just requires a rapid and complete recovery, and that's what the best creative people know how to do. Not without anguish, but without hesitation.

From all the evidence -- Apple's efforts to court the pros, its touting of FCPX as a professional tool, the new FAQs -- Apple is not actively trying to abandon us. It's more likely the FCP team believed FCPX was a daring, glorious risk. But it seems clear now that it is a failure. The capable users it should have challenged and thrilled are disappointed and feel betrayed. FCP1 opened doors; FCPX in many ways appears to close them. It is not the creative breakthrough that its team expected. I suspect there is pain.

I've been lucky enough to know some effective creative people, and that pain is common, even among the best. From what I've seen the only way they get through those failures is to acknowledge them honestly and get past the inevitable defensive mode into recovery. In film and writing it's either wholesale revision or abandonment of the project altogether. A reputation often depends on whether that recovery effort is forthright or truculent.

So the main question seems to be whether Apple is willing to accept this failure and acknowledge it quickly enough to recover and advance. From what I have seen of that kind of acceptance, it helps define the flexibility and persistence that marks the most genuinely creative of individuals. Because, painful or not, the acceptance of failure can offer insights and breakthroughs that success doesn't.

The question is just whether Apple still has enough creative spirit in this field to accept the short-term embarrassment of acknowledging failure in order to continue seeking long-term achievement, or just moves away from the terrors of creativity into the safer but sadder path of mediocrity.

Good luck to everyone.


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