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Frame Failure As Learning

"An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail." - Edwin Land

This quote highlights a crucial aspect of innovation that many organizations struggle with and how they frame failure.

In today's fast-paced world, teams are constantly tackling complex problems, working to discover and deliver value to their customers and the business. 

However, the fear of failure can be paralyzing for leaders and teams. Ironically, innovation thrives in moments of uncertainty.

When teams set out to solve a customer problem, they must conduct discovery to understand it deeply. They will have biases that cloud their judgment regarding potential solutions, so they must expose and test critical assumptions. Risky assumptions that don't prove true can cause the team to pivot, pause, or stop the work. 

Therefore, experimentation becomes crucial.

The teams afraid of failure are likely to play it safe when experimenting, unable to expose and tackle the critical assumptions and stick to what they already know. 

Leaders become concerned with failure, so they step in and start directing. This approach stifles innovation and might lead to misguided decisions. 

Worse yet, leaders and teams might disregard evidence that challenges their beliefs.

Imagine an organization where leaders and teams remain curious and have a drive to learn. In such an environment, leaders empower teams to explore new ideas, take calculated risks, experiment, fail, and push the boundaries of what's possible to learn quickly. 

Leaders and teams understand that each setback brings valuable data and insights, the evidence that guides their decision-making.

In organizations that frame failure as learning, the results are extraordinary. It enables leaders and teams to unlock new levels of creativity and achieve customer and business outcomes. 

"Failure isn't a necessary evil. It isn't evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new." - Ed Catmull, Pixar's co-founder

Examine how the organization frames failure. It drives how leaders and teams behave. Embrace it as learning, not as a setback but as a catalyst for innovation and growth.


Written By: Pam Krengel