Bold innovation is one of the many reasons for human growth and development. We have come this far because a few people dared to try. Dared to dream. And dared to try. Lives get changed, markets get disrupted and sometimes people get hurt when millions of people embrace something new. We thrive on change. The only way forward is change, but change it hard.
The only way to succeed is to try. You can’t make, create, do or start anything worthwhile if you are not willing to experiment. Nobody gets it right the first time, especially when it’s something groundbreaking, disruptive and life changing. According to Tim Harford, author of Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure, “success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time.”
Failure open up other opportunities for success
If you don’t operate a nuclear plant, it’s safe to say that can probably infuse a bit more freedom and flexibility into your workday. Give yourself permission to fail. Failure avoidance will only lead to inaction. The hard truth though is that, acceptance of failure leads to a higher likelihood of failing but the world’s leading innovators embrace it anyway. Failure is every innovation’s inevitable companion. Learning what doesn’t work is a necessary step to learning what can stand the test of time.
Apple III was one of Apple’s worst products. It was a bold step but according to Steve Wozniak, it was a 100 percent failure rate. Every single machine that was sold had to be repaired. Apple fixed every single machine, and kept fixing the design until it worked.
Google had high hopes for Wave, one its failed products. Facebook and Twitter were too strong for it, so Google killed it. Google Wave lasted 15 months.
Microsoft’s Zune was supposed to be the answer to the iPod. But it never really caught on. That didn’t stop Microsoft from trying out new ideas.
Innovative companies learn from every failure and move on to continue the experiments. They don’t stop. They find what doesn’t work and keep pursuing other opportunities. You can’t avoid failure or you’ll never do anything innovative. And you can’t accept failure or you’ll lack grit.
Trial and error is one of the most effective approaches for innovation
There’s nothing wrong with dropping an experiment that doesn’t work out as you thought it would. But most innovators often spot a failure and try to fix it early and hold on to even the smallest chance of success. They work on projects with small downsides but bigger upsides. Persistence pays off but it pays to recognise what won’t work and adjust as and when needed.
Elon Musk is arguably one of the most respected innovators of the 21st century. He solves real world global problems. PayPal solved sending and receiving payments online. SpaceX is changing space transport services as we know it.
Tesla focuses on electric cars and promises to bring about a transportation transformation. Solar City wants to harness the Sun’s energy to provide energy for millions of people. Elon has probably experimented hundreds if not thousands of times in his career. And he is still experimenting.
Innovators embrace failure like scientists.The only way to know if your idea will work is to put it out there in the real world and find out how it works. Test them, like a scientist. Start over if you get off on the wrong foot. In the course of any significant innovative idea, there will always be logical, rational and compelling reasons to quit but innovators don’t give up that easily.
Experimentation improves the process of solving problems
Experiments are the driving force behind creative innovations. Many times, companies that embrace failure often come up with a lot more new products and better ways to work. There is no innovation without the possibility of failure. Most technology giants make room for failure. Google has experimented and killed a lot more new products than most technology companies. And guess what, they still give employees the freedom to try new ideas. Gmail was an internal product made by a Google employee.
Encouraging employees to think outside of the box and giving them time, resources and freedom to explore new areas for innovative ideas often results in breakthrough products. Innovative companies that win face challenges like everyone else, but they have the will to persevere and adapt new ways to stay relevant in the ever-changing business world.
The only way to survive is to adapt and embrace innovation. Innovators don’t win every time, but more importantly, they don’t let their failures get in the way of their actions…which lets them live to innovate another day.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.