Innovation Sometimes Fails. That's OK!
Failure. The word itself invokes fear into many. For some, it takes them back to their school days, where failure was not acceptable.
Striving for perfection, marked down when not meeting convention. For others, it brings back memories of trying something they believed in. Something which didn’t work. Something they didn’t have the courage to continue with.
Accepting and celebrating you’re a failure doesn’t come naturally to most. You rarely hear people proclaiming from the rooftops, “Hey, I failed my business” or “My marriage didn’t work”. Instead, we speak of success. Businesses which have high turnovers, charismatic leaders and longevity. People who are celebrating 40, 50, 60 years of marriage. Gold medallists, clubs at the top of the table, award winners.
Learn from failure
Yet, when it comes to business, and particularly innovation in business, we hear lots of people talk about ‘celebrating mistakes’ and ‘rewarding failure’. That the spotlight should be placed not upon the success, but the learnings from the failures.
But in this volatile, uncertain climate; how realistic is it to walk this talk for the average organisation? Time pressures, competition, financial instability have all put greater emphasis on getting things right quicker, leaving little time to embrace, nurture and develop the failings. There’s certainly no chance of publicising mistakes for all to see.
Yet failure is essential to successful innovation. Rarely can one idea be the right idea. It takes time to develop, to refine, to achieve the desired result.
Failure is the best medicine
Take Sir James Dyson, his story of failure is one of our favourites. 14 years of dogged determination and 5,126 prototypes later and he eventually launched the first Dyson into the mainstream market. Now he’s one of the most celebrated inventors in the world and a multi-billion-pound fortune to boot. He never shouted Eureka! instead, as told to the London Business School, “Endless experimentation and many mistakes had to be endured… Failure is the best medicine.”
Best-selling author, Eloise Ristad, once said:
“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”
Tough economic climates are here for the foreseeable future and, to survive and thrive, we must challenge the norm. Encouraging, enabling and empowering employees to take risks, make mistakes, learn from them. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t. Wouldn’t you rather say “We tried”, than never try at all…?
To celebrate failure, you must have the right culture in place. Download our whitepaper outlining our Six Must Bees of Innovation Culture.