Wave Goodbye

Oh, I do admire Google’s ability to fail.

They started something a while ago called Google Wave which they launched as the answer to life the universe and everything. It was going to be collaborative workspace, social communication, the new e-mail that everyone was going to flock to and generally more fun than feather boas.

It hasn’t worked and they’ve stopped development of it this week. Its a lesson in glorious failure. I admire the fact that they had a go and failed so magnificently. No doubt they have learned a lot and got lots of things to build on in the future.

I suspect it failed because the benefit was not worth the sign-up. It was proprietary software (you could only use it from within the Reign of Google) and that’s always tricky. Facebook seems to have managed to make a success of a proprietary model and there are lesser successes like Skype. In some ways its odd that Google hit the mark as the are big enough and butch enough to have a lot of power in the online world.

Google also has a model which is committed to glorious failure. They let their software-bods have significant time to work on dream projects that are not governed by managers. The theory is that the rare successes make it worth living with the failures that are inevitable from some projects along the way.

I’m interested in that for I work in a world which is often a success culture and people fear failure so much that they often won’t innovate.

I was asked this week where I would set up a new Episcopal church in Glasgow if I had a magic wand. I knew my answer immediately. I think there are two obvious targets in this city where a church might be established within five years or so. I’ve been thinking about that for a long time too. Mulling it over and brooding on possibility.

We’ve lost the knack of starting new congregations. A hundred years ago we did it constantly. The failure rate was huge, when you look back at the stories. However, if we could build a little bit of Google innovation into our heads we would realise that failure is inevitable and part of the growth cycle.


  1. just remind me — did you ever sign up?

    (I liked wave — but no, it didn’t work because not enough people were using it)

    ‘glorious failure’ … well worth promoting as a model for church growth.

    • I did end up signed up to Google Wave, Kimberly. I don’t remember whether I did that myself or whether they did it to me. However, one way or another, I never knew quite what to do with it and the odd time I tried, I felt somewhat lost.

      This might be why it did not work. Though contrarywise, most people I know who sign up to facebook feel very lost at first.

  2. And where would these congregations be? Now we’re talkin’!

  3. I also got Wave early! Which impressed some people who, after I invited them and they tried it, became swiftly unimpressed. Don’t know anyone who was genuinely fond of it but, as you say, Google’s willingness to embrace such glorious failures is to be cherished. Suppose facebook’s 500 million plus users+ reach leads people to persevere when it might seem counterintuitive, unlike Wave. Although it does boggle my mind that people use email programmes *other* than the peerless Google Mail!

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