Celebrate failures

Nobody likes to blunder. There are not many organisations that are comfortable with making mistakes. We’ve always learned that errors are a bad thing. If people mess up what they do, they tend to feel stupid and incompetent. That’s why most people avoid risky and new situations. And that’s a shame…

Failures can be divided into two categories.

1. Caused by incompetence.
Failures as the result of clumsiness, laziness or simply carelessness. These shortcomings in human behaviour can (and will) lead to mistakes that could have been prevented otherwise. These unnecessary missteps cost loads of money and loads of time. Steer clear of this kind.

2. Caused by experimentation. 

Accidents like this arise because of trial and error. They happen because people are challenging themselves to do things differently, or because someone wants to try out a new idea. These unexpected outcomes are evidence of progress. There are good reasons why your organisation should celebrate this kind of failure. It’s learning experiences like these that will lead to innovation sooner or later.

Celebrate failures

If you want your organisation to be innovative you’ll have to be willing to be wrong. Meaning; you should be prepared to try something new. To experiment. To put some new ideas into practice that yet have to prove themselves.

By stimulating experimentation and taking (calculated) risks, organisations can create a creative culture.

There is another important reason why you should take a closer look at experiments-gone-wrong. Sometimes unexpected outcomes can lead to surprising inventions and discoveries.

Sildenafil was originally developed as a drug for chest pain (Angina pectoris). However, the test was a complete flop. When clinical trials were put to an end, disillusioned male subjects came to ask if they still could use the drug. The reason: the pills had a surprising side effect… The drug got approved and was put on the market for another goal. Annual sales of Viagra is now over 1 billion dollar!

Encourage your employees to experiment once in a while. New ideas and approaches will often go wrong, but they might lead to a groundbreaking innovation.

Does your organisation celebrate failures? Did you ever stumble upon an innovative idea because of a failed project? Please let me know in the comment box below.

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Photo © Toni Birrer

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