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Fail-Safe?

The power to succeed is at least partly in your hands.

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This story appears in the May 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Nobody likes failing, but most entrepreneurs do fail from time to time. Why? Is business too difficult for even the smartest of us to fully grasp? Yes, says Paul Ormerod. In Why Most Things Fail (Pantheon, $24.95), the British economist uses ideas from biology, politics and commerce to show that markets are too complex and changing to be more than occasionally and imperfectly understood or exploited. Most ideas, products and businesses eventually fail, and almost nothing we do can change that.

But while no amount of market research, inspiring insight or hard work eliminates the possibility of failure--or even makes success very likely-you can reduce failure's probability, or at least delay its arrival. First, know all you can about your industry. Second, avoid over-committing to even the most promising course. Finally, innovate tirelessly so that at least one of your ideas may succeed. Elegantly written and rich with insights, Ormerod's examination of failure is safe from being considered one itself.

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