On Innovation: Failing Early Through Experimentation

Any organization wanting to tap into the power of innovation has to be willing to develop the mindset of accepting failure. 800px-Eclair-ligthning-3If managers do not develop a mindset for this, most innovation efforts / programs will die in their infancy. The reason being, nobody wants to be looked upon as the person who failed. But most are fine if they are seen as people whose experiments didn’t work out.  Understanding this difference can have a large impact on your innovation program.

When managers leading the innovation program are able to set clear and short experiments, incremental in nature and building just a little on the previous step – failure when it happens becomes a part of the process. It does not get too much attention. This allows the team to tweak the experiment if required and take another attempt at it.  Innovation programs, then must incorporate experimentation as a way of nurturing creativity and enthusiasm amongst employees to participate.

As against this imagine a program structured to run as a big-bang process, where on selection of an idea, the attempt is to run it end to end on a single run. What would happen if this fails? What could be the impact commercially and on the psyche of the team behind the idea? Will it encourage others to try? Will it encourage the firm to stay on its course of searching for the NEXT idea?

Failing early provides for better utilization of resources, efforts and most importantly enthusiasm. The next time you hear about organizations discussing innovation as an important aspect of growth – check if there are enough opportunities for failing early in the program. If not the program is bound to fail!


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