I've been hearing all this happy talk about how great it is for Google that Wave failed. The theory being that if you fail that means you took a chance, and taking chances is good therefore failing is good.
I've been there. In 1986 my company was in very deep shit. One night I was leaving the office and I knew the next morning I was going to lay off a quarter of the company and cut the salaries of everyone else in half. Even after doing that I still didn't think we could make it. My board had told me to shut the company down and I told them to STFU.
As I locked the front door I stopped and thought, how would it work if we did fail? Would I lock the front door one last time and then walk away? I literally couldn't visualize it. As I drove home I resolved that I would never do that. Somehow we'd get through this crisis and we'd make it work.
Later, when it did work, I realized that moment, while locking the front door that night, was when the company turned around. When we went from being in crisis mode to being a winner, for one very simple reason. I tried to visualize failure, and couldn't do it.
It didn't really sink in until my second company washed up on shore and couldn't get back to sea. We didn't have that feeling that failure wasn't an option because the way it was set up was the way big companies set up projects. None of us could lose our jobs. We had enough money to try again and again. I think this is why real startups have a chance to do something truly new and established companies can't. Because not only is failure a real option, it also is pretty inevitable.