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Have you ever noticed every company wants to be innovative, but no one wants to fail?

Maybe you want to be innovative in your industry as well. If this is the case, what are your thoughts on failure? Often times when we ask a CEO “What are your policies on failure?” we hear… “avoid it at all costs” or “we do not have policies on failure, but do not want our employees failing“.

Now think about this. If you tell your employees to avoid failure at all costs and then in the next breath tell them to be innovative in their work… what happens? Often people do not like the thoughts of getting in trouble or fired for a failure. So, what do they do? Only the things they know are going to “not fail”. That means tried and true things, things they know, things with very little risk.

So how do you create innovation?

Well the first step is to change the culture of your organization. You need to create a culture where people are ok with taking risks. This means that failure is not avoided, it is encouraged. Think about it. How many times does an inventor try his idea? Once and then he scraps it, or does he or she try several times. Maybe hundreds, maybe thousands of times before his (her) invention is ready for market.

Failure delivers several ways of reaching success. Here are a few:

  1. The more you try the better off you will be. Quitting with your first idea is never a creative way to solve problems or innovate. How many failures did Edison have before reaching success? Many!
  2. If you create a culture where people are not scared to fail, they are more open to trying new, creative and unique ways of dealing with problem solving. Make failure part of the process.
  3. Failure needs to become the catalyst for learning. If you are failing often and you learn why you failed and what you can do to be better the next time, all of a sudden you created a learning and training ground for growth and innovation.

The point here is this… It isn’t a matter of innovation or failure. These items should be look at as one in the same. Without failure there would be no innovation. So in order to innovate, and do it time and time again, you need to create a company built on many failures.

Failure should be allowed in all areas of the business. As long as you and everyone on the time is learning from these mistakes, and looking for new ways to create a better system… then you are soon on the way to building an innovative company. This includes sales, marketing, product development, leadership, you name it. So what have you failed at today?

One last thought and a fun story about failure:

The story goes that “Thomas Edison failed more than 1,000 times when trying to create the light bulb”. (The story is often told as 5,000 or 10,000 times depending on the version.)

When asked about it,
Edison allegedly said, “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.”

So maybe your best bet is to remove the word “fail” or “failure” from your vocabulary. Maybe understanding you need to have enough “no’s” in selling or enough “failures” in other positions lead to the success and innovation you are looking for. Thinking positively about the one that didn’t work, because you know you are one call closer to closing the deal. Or one product closer to creating the product that becomes the game changer, or the “light bulb”.

So get out there and give it one more try!