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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Today we move to the “Test”” part of the FAST Innovation Model (Focus, Ask, Shift, Test).

Although failure seems to be the buzzword in innovation, it is actual detrimental to an organization’s success. There is an alternative: experiments.

Be sure to watch the previous videos!


Today on the Innovation Minute, I’m going to talk about why failure is a bad thing for innovation…

In the world of innovation, we seem to think that failure is a good thing. If we’re not breaking eggs, we’re not innovating. But this, to me, is faulty reasoning. We don’t want to fail. We want to experiment. Let me talk about this a little bit. Experiments are designed to prove or disprove a hypothesis. There’s nothing wrong with running an experiment and disproving what you believed to be true. When we run experiments there are possible outcomes…

  1. One outcome is we run an experiment and we prove our hypothesis to be true. That is success, and it will lead to success, assuming it was a good experiment.
  2. We could run an experiment. We could disprove a hypothesis, that is something we thought would be a good idea proved to be a bad idea. This is NOT failure. This is actually success because we’ve disproven something. We’ve stopped investing in an innovation that would be a bad idea.
  3. Another possibility, though, is we run an experiment, and we don’t prove or disprove the hypothesis, or we prove a hypothesis to be true that, in fact, is not true. This is failure. This is when it leads to failure.

If you run an experiment, and it is not a good hypothesis, yet somehow your experiment proves it to be true, this is what ultimately leads to failure.

So we don’t wait to fail, we want to experiment. We want to become masters at creating small, scalable experiments, that prove or disprove our hypotheses. This is really what we want to strive for. Disproving a hypothesis is never failure.

That is one of the greatest things we can do as innovators.

    • Stephen Shapiro says:

      Failure is an inevitable outcome of any innovation effort. But I don’t think it should be our goal. We should be doing everything in our power to reduce the risk of failure. However, when we do fail, we need to learn from it. And yes, it can be a source of great success when handled properly. Thanks!

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