But What If We Fail?

Is your organization or are you afraid of the good that can come out of making “mistakes”?
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But What If We Fail? Can Failing Help Innovation?


Ironically, the story we are about to present (and all of our stories) is set on an airplane. This might bring to mind the Wright Bros. But this innovation lesson in particular we hope can be enhanced by the inspiration of two brothers that didn’t let roadblocks and early judgement get in their way.
What if the Wright Brothers were afraid to fail? Think of that.  Did they have a naturally genetic mindset that was open to failure?  Whether or not they stretched their mind to realize that each failure was going to provide new learnings or they just didn’t want to give up, the outcome was the same.  These brothers were going to innovate, “failures” and all.
We are fairly certain many things broke along the way and these learnings, you might argue, were the key to the ultimate success in claiming credit for their invention.  After all of these failures, a new invention was born. You might have heard of it. It’s called an airplane. 

How Can This Affect Innovation?

The million dollar question, is does innovation happen faster when we try to build the perfect mouse trap right away, or if we get out there and collect information to fix ultimately what we truly don’t know the answer to.  The answer likely lies somewhere in between. 

Can we instill a mindset into our corporate culture that fosters rewarding some level of mistakes?

Creativity and growth can be hampered to a grinding halt through an inability to to take some risks. It can also be stymied by fear of trying.  Does your organization stimulate ideas or does your organization have a culture that prevents people from turning on their creative mind?

As the Wright Bros. showed us, a few crashes here and there are the lifeblood of innovation.

Summary Of Learnings

  • While many of us may excel in analytical thinking and problem solving, we often show poor creative thinking and problem solving
  • Our ability to improve creative thinking and enhance innovation can be fostered by a creative problem solving process and a set of process skills. One of these skills is an openness to new ideas.
  • A lack of innovative thinking can show up in organizations in six main ways or “patterns,” as follows: getting bogged down; trusting myself and my colleagues; parlor discussion or applied action?; wanting a new management style but…; change: fearful or fearless; and sharing the risk. 
  • The process of organizational creativity is actually a process of mainstreaming innovation, or continually finding important corporate problems, solving those problems and implementing the solutions.
  • People in innovative organizations foster an environment that emphasizes the importance of innovation, rather than simply measuring, managing and rewarding efficiency.
  • The innovation process consists of four creative problem solving styles: generating, conceptualizing, optimizing and implementing. Each corresponds to a discrete quadrant of the process. 
  • All individuals and organizations have peculiar blends of these four problem solving styles, defined as a creative problem solving profile. In order to succeed in innovation, a team requires members who learn to use their differing strengths in all four quadrants to complement one another.
  • In order to carry out innovation, individuals and organizations must learn and apply three specific process skills. These process skills include deferring judgment, active divergence and active convergence. 
  • An organization must establish structures and processes that encourage team members to use the innovation process and process skills.
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