innovation and failure

One Failure at a Time

Have you ever really, truly failed at something? What I mean to ask is, have you ever tried something hoping to get a result that you never even came close to attaining? How did you deal with this failure? Did you decide to let it define you, or did you choose to redefine it?

Recently, we've come up against one or two of these types of failures in our efforts to bring Design Thinking to a wider audience. We started to let this define our work, but then managed to catch ourselves. 

Instead of going down a path of fear, we decided upon a path of knowledge. We took a long, hard, and, most importantly, honest look at our failures. This honest view point (i.e. Admitting to ourselves that "We did not come close to succeeding here.) allowed us to ask WHY we failed, then alter our plans to try again.

It's a simple concept in theory, but one of those that can be extremely difficult to put into practice. Once we did put it into practice, however, that is when the successes started to unfold.

One failure at a time. Step by step. 

What If You Pushed Aside Doubt?

The ethos "There is no such thing as failure" is not new, but when was the last time you, or your team, actually practiced it?

Sure, embracing it too tightly can mean business demise, but what if you held on to the concept just a little?

What if the next time you had an ideation or design session you didn't allow doubt or potentiality of failure into the room just for that hour or so? What would you find?

Maybe nothing, or maybe something really amazing. [1, 2]

Why not try and find out?

1. Tsaousides, T. (2017, December 17). Why Fear of Failure Can Keep You Stuck. Retrieved from

2. Kalb, I. (2013, June 1). Could Fear of Failure Limit Your Success. Retrieved from

Don't Forget to Fail

Many a business person has been inspired by the story of Spanx founder, Sara Blakely [1]. After-all, she IS a self-made billionaire whose passion and perseverance have chiseled out one of the most successful businesses of our time. Who could deny being inspired by that?

Personally, I know many friends and colleagues who have worked to learn from and mimic her actions in an effort to foster their own business success (myself included). However, after reading a recent interview with Ms. Blakely [2], I realized there was one foundational milestone that many of us have been overlooking in this quest.


In the interview, Sara Blakely tells us that, "When I was growing up my father would ask me, 'What have you failed at this week?' His lesson was that trying was just as important as the outcome. Not trying something was failure."

The effect of this practice? Blakely tells us "It allowed me to be freer in trying things in life and to embrace failure as part of a growing process."; a mindset that allowed her to try to make a business out of pantyhose with the legs cut off, instead of stopping before she got started due to a fear of failure. 

I believe it is this mindset which is the cornerstone to all the other steps along her journey, yet so many of us overlook it. Instead, we define failure as an unfavorable outcome to some event, and look to avoid it at all costs.

Our main method of avoidance? Not trying at all.

The irony is that this avoidance tactic is not only not helpful, but it is the surest way to stifle any innovation.

1.  Wikipedia. Sara Blakely. Retrieved from

2. Schreiber, G. Sara Blakely: The Spanx Billionaire Who Thrived On Failure. Retrieved from