Thursday, February 28, 2008

To have success, failure must come first

In a recent article in Research World *entitled, “The glorious paradox of success if you need failure to achieve it,” by John Kearon, Chief Juicer - founder and CEO of BrainJuicer, Inc. he spends time discussing the importance of failure when it comes to innovation and how our current system of management does not allow us to fully fail before we can succeed. Failure. That seven letter word is dreaded by everyone. But those who strive call themselves inventors or creators know that an idea is not perfect on the first try, yet comes after many times of facing failure.

Since we don’t allow the natural progression of things, we ignore natural progression such as trial and error or survival of the fittest. So how are we supposed to get to that final version of our innovative process without failing times before?

John Kearon points out that our culture is naturally against innovation. Instead of stumbling upon business failures, we instead turn to acquisitions and consolidations, not allowing innovation to take its proper course. Companies completely skip over the trial and error process. Our challenge is to learn how to speed up the mistake process. Therefore it is essential that we take more risks and learn from them in a smaller amount of time.

* this is a .pdf file that will download if you click on it; you’ll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open it.


The Innovationist said...

To a large part I agree with John's point and perspective. Especially the part that acknowledges that in todays world we are rarely allowed to fail and to achieve the learning that should come with it. AND there are innovation techniques that allow you to incorporate this "trial and error" and natural progression into successful innovation efforts.

Since innovation is the successful implementation of new ways of doing anything that creates new value, a robust innovation process must understand the imperfection of beginning thoughts and beginning executions. The successful innovation process incorporates this reality in what we call "Open-Minded Evaluation."

Since the age of 5, we are taught that there is a right answer and a wrong answer. We learn to evaluate things and determine how they fit those two boxes, deeming things as "success" or "failure."

If there is a linear scale, left to right, from "worthless" to "perfect," at some point along that scale, each of us has what we call our "threshold of acceptance." Anything to the right of that we normally deem to be a good idea, a successful iteration, etc. Anything to the left, we normally conclude to be "wrong," "failure," etc.

With an Open-Minded Evaluation process, we evaluate differently. First, we seek to understand everything that is good or we like about the idea or manifestation. We force ourselves to only consider the positives, for a short while. This allows us to see if there is VALUE to the thought. The more positives, the more value. Once we have convinced ourselves that this idea has value, then it is worth understanding the short-comings that are preventing it from being a success.

In this stage, we change our language, adopting what we believe are two of the most powerful words in the English language... "How to..." Instead of saying "It's too expensive," we say "how to make this less costly." This invites problem-solving. If we problem-solve the major hurdles to success, we move the idea along the spectrum, over our threshold of acceptance, and into the area we would call success. Failure is an end. Open Minded Evaluation with problem-solving leverages the natural progression of an idea, or innovative thought into a successful innovation!

Of course, not every idea can be problem-solved to success. But understanding that this is the appropriate process, rather then an early rush to judgment can make a big difference in your innovation process.

Jennifer said...

Thanks, Innovationist, for sharing you thoughts on Open Minded Innovation with us! I do think that today's standards for what we consider failure are a bit skewed.

Thanks for reading our blog, too! We hope to hear more of your innovation perspectives more soon.


Clicky Web Analytics