innovation leads to failure leads to innovation

People tell you that you should be creative and innovate to get ahead of the competition. What they don’t tell you is that creativity and innovation lead to failure. That’s right failure.

Whenever we try something different it is probably not going to work, particularly the first (few) times. It will fail. True innovation comes from learning from that failure and tweaking and experimenting and playing with it until it works.

When developing training programs, the bulk of the work is done in the back office. But the magic happens in front of a group of participants. I rarely have an insight on how to improve wording or flow when sitting at my desk. Some of my biggest breakthroughs have been from failing in the field – forgetting what I was going to say, getting ahead of myself and presenting the sequence out of order, or getting a question that I didn’t anticipate. Getting it wrong, recovering, and seeing how it can be even better leads to huge gains.

Thomas Leonard, considered by many to be the father of personal coaching, used to intentionally overload systems and processes to see what would break first. Then he’d correct that and overload it again. This allowed him to quickly understand what worked, what didn’t, and to create airtight processes.

In the mid 1980’s Suzuki developed a groundbreaking sportbike – the GSX-R. To make the engine lighter than many thought was possible, the engineers would shave weight from a part, test, and shave more weight until it failed. Doing this over and over with each component taught them the lightest reliable weight each part could be.

The problem is that we usually try something new and when it doesn’t work we deem it failure and give up. But each failure holds a lesson that we can use for improvement.

If we’re willing to learn.

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