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Why Is Failure So Important To Business Innovation?

By 18/05/2019Nov 23rd, 2021No Comments



To innovate and transform the status quo is to do things differently and doing things differently requires you to be comfortable failing. How comfortable are you with failure? Your level of comfort with failure will determine your level of innovation success. Innovation success and failure are directly and positively linked.


Low levels of failure bring low levels of innovation success and conversely. Your way may be working though you will never know if there is a better way unless you try and trying brings with it the possibility of failing. If you are not failing, you are not trying something new or innovating.


“Asking “why” challenges the status quo and ensures you’ll do things differently. By focusing on that simple, one-word question, it creates the space to be truly inventive. Put it into practice. Get curious. Be open to the possibility that your way could be a better way.”




Words are social constructs, meaning that a word means different things to different people and in different contexts. In Business Innovation, if you are failing you are creating something new and prototyping (testing). Human workers in the future will need to be creative in order to remain relevant and create new value.  The most creative employees are those not afraid to fail.


“Human workers in the future will need to be creative to fully realize the benefits of all the new things for the future—new products, ways of working and technologies. Robots currently can’t compete with humans on creativity. The future workplace is going to demand new ways of thinking, and human creativity is the key to it.”


Prototyping or testing is part of the innovation process, once you have received your inspiration and you have ideated you need to implement, and part of implementing is to test the market. Rapid prototyping is an extreme form of prototyping whereby the product or service is only just functional in its basic form. Tom Chi of Google X did a rapid protype of Google Glasses within one day using items lying around the office. Why spend millions on a product or service launch until you are sure?


You see the world is moving so quickly that its nonsensical to spend resources creating and launching the perfect product or service that you are not sure the market wants or that you yourself are not even sure how specifically the product or service will work and how to best position it. Never mind that the delays may mean you losing your competitive advantage on the market. So, launch that new imperfect product or service, fail fast and learn.




Failure is simply the learnings you receive from your product or service launch and using those learnings to refine your offering. The key is to mitigate failure, fail fast, learn fast and try again. In this new world there is no end result, so this is a constant loop and essential to agile organizations who want to stay on top of their innovation game and provide optimum value. The five trademarks of agile organizations:


Agile organizations are comprised of successful teams who develop quality products and are highly collaborative. They are; committed to the team’s success and shared goals, they are interdependent and support each other creating a safe space to fail and learn and finally they have interpersonal skills, they know that their differences make them stronger.


Some ways in which leaders can increase shared commitment within a team are listed below:

  1. Provide clear and understandable team goals.
  2. Choose people who work well with others and identify their strengths.
  3. Encourage an open flow of communication. Be transparent.
  4. Truly empower team members to be able to do their jobs.
  5. Make time for social get-togethers.
  6. Encourage a culture of ideas sharing.
  7. Build a culture of ownership and accountability.
  8. Celebrate small and big wins.”


Successful teams apply their learnings and persist, they have grit and resilience and they innovate at faster rates remaining competitive in an ever-changing landscape.


These are the top 10 skills you need for the future of work and not only do all of them require an understanding of your Neuro-Linguistic Programming, all of them require being vulnerable enough to fail.

  1. Creativity
  2. Emotional intelligence (EQ)
  3. Analytical (critical) thinking
  4. Active learning with a growth mindset
  5. Judgment and decision making
  6. Interpersonal communication skills
  7. Leadership skills
  8. Diversity and cultural intelligence
  9. Technology skills
  10. Embracing change




‘You can’t get nowhere with a $1,000 saddle on a $10 horse.’ Spence says you can dress yourself up and learn all the tricks of the trade, but they’re like fancy saddles. That won’t work in the long run unless you take time to discover the power that comes from being the unique, authentic, and perfectly imperfect human that you truly are.” Gerry Spence


Embracing your perfect imperfection is to be vulnerable and being comfortable being vulnerable allows you to not fear failure as fear of failure will hold you back from innovation. Companies and individuals who don’t fail don’t learn, failure is part of the process of trying something new.


Furthermore, a negative emotion such as fear ensures the Limbic Brain is in use which is your flight or fright response and not your Neocortex, which is where creativity and innovation takes place. A 1996 Stanford study showed that negativity, for 30 minutes or more can physically damage the brain, shrinking of the hippocampus essential for learning and emotions.