Most people don’t want to fail. But, if you fail fast and fail early, you’re going to learn quickly and ultimately be a better innovator. You become more innovative when you aren’t afraid of failure because failing is a direct result of bending the implications of what you thought you knew. Failure comes from taking risk and it changes your understanding of reality.
Failure comes from experimentation, and experiments are effectively fact-finding missions. When you do an experiment you risk failure, which is a great thing because it produces new information and moves you closer to a better understanding of your eventual goal. If your initial theory is wrong, that’s OK because you’re now armed with new facts that allow you to reframe your initial question and move closer to success, faster.
Embracing the idea of failure as acceptable is going to lead you (and/or your company) to be less afraid of taking risk. This is important because when you become too opposed to taking risks, you’re going to stop innovating and start rejecting new ideas. Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull writes in his book Creativity Inc. that being too risk-averse is the first step down a path to irrelevance. He adds that to be a sincerely creative company, you need to start trying and doing things that might fail.
Growing from failure
There are two parts to any failure: there is the actual event of failing, and then there is the reaction to the failure. Instead of failing and burying your head in the sand, you can step back and assess the situation and grow creatively and professionally.
To grow creatively and professionally from failure, you need to discuss your failure and its effects. This is more than just an academic exercise, but an exercise that gives you a better understanding of what exactly what went wrong. Unfortunately, discussing failure can be very difficult to do because people are often afraid of discussing what they did wrong. If you’re running a company, you should knock down this barrier of fear and create an atmosphere in which making mistakes doesn’t make employees feel anxious or disgraced. Allowing employees to fail will develop them and help them grow into much stronger team members and contributors to your company.
When it comes to failure, let people (and yourself!) make mistakes. More importantly, let people fix their mistakes so that they can learn from them to become more creative and better than their role within a company.
If you aren’t ever failing, you are making a mistake that is far worse for a business, being driven by the desire to avoid doing something wrong. When you’re driven by the idea of avoiding failure, you aren’t taking any risks, which means that you aren’t being innovative. Playing it safe and taking no risks means you’re accepting the status quo and it’ll be nearly impossible to thrive in a quickly changing business landscape.