An article in Forbes India tells us to embrace failure as a critical learning opportunity in the innovation process.
Theodore Forbath, global vice president of innovation strategy at Frog Consultancy, calls it "intelligent failure." While the term may be less common, learning from failure is not a new idea. Companies embrace intelligent failure in many forms, calling these witting belly flops "pilot products" and "beta software." When Facebook users protest changes to form and function, Facebook calls it "market research" and "design validation."
Regardless of what you call it, the spirit of the practice is to willingly march into the potential for failure rather than around it.
Embracing failure is a tough sell for many. The biggest barrier to intelligent failure is the all too human aversion to shame and embarrassment. Some organizations exacerbate this aversion by punishing failure with pay cuts and demotions. Unfortunately, when we avoid failure, we also avoid progress.
According to Forbath, there are several things an organization can do to encourage the kind of intelligent failure that leads to critical product development and innovation. Here are four things you can do for yourself:
1. Create manageable failures.
Test an innovation in its early stage. Know that the role of the test is to expose flaws, gather information, and analyze data, using minimal resources. At this stage, the cost of failure is low and the payoff for future improvements is high.
2. Work with a team.
A team shares the frustrations of working on a project with unknown outcomes. They also share learning opportunities and offer encouragement. It is always helpful to have a member who can remind the whole team of the valuable purpose of the failure process.
3. Celebrate failure.
Forbath offers the example of Eli Lilly, a medical innovation company. Its leaders actually throw parties to celebrate and reward the big failures that lead to big learning for the company. Celebrating failure equals celebrating learning.
4. Invite feedback.
After a project has failed, invite feedback from participants. The specifics about what went wrong will provide useful direction for the next phase of innovation. Avoid reacting out of defensiveness. This will only slow your path toward the better product.