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Guest Lecture - David Pablo Cohn

Lauren Erica Davis

On April 9th, 2012, Davis Pablo Cohn came to speak to us. His presentation was titled failure is not an option. He began with a quote from Tomas Edison which states: I've not failed--I've found 10,000 ways that didn't work." The point being that in order to find one thing that works, you often find many things that don't work, and the most creative, innovative people are the ones who have lots of ideas and lots of failures and keep trying anyway.

He gave us a short history of his background, failing to get a teaching position at a university, and then starting out with several start ups that failed, several coast to coast moves, and lots of money invested and lost. Eventually he ended up at Google which succeeded and is now a very large and successful business.

He gave us four rules for failure as a way of life:

1. Plan for Failure

2. Fail quickly- recognize when what you are doing doesn't work, and when it is time to quit before you waste a lot of time and money.

3. Learn from failure- the only complete failure is one you haven't learned from.

4. Iterate as necessary-

He then spoke to us about what Google labs which Google created in order to test new products out without a lot of risk, and enabling them to have data to show whether a project will work or will not work. In the first nine months of Google lab more projects were launched than in the nine years before that. It is a successful way to boost creativity and innovation.


  1. How do you know how much time to put into something before you know it won't work and quit?
  2. Should you always pivot or is there a time when you are sure it won't work and move on to something else?
  3. How do you define success? Do you only succeed when people think your product is worth spending money on?