Burst of Innovation - The 3 Ways that Failure Sparks Innovation

Why is Failure Important to Innovation?

Failure is a word we hear a lot in business. Many companies use it in their mantra. People say things like, “Love your failures” and “You can’t succeed without failure.” And these things are true! However, many people only think about the “power of failure” on a superficial level. I believe that failure is also important in a deeper way.

Failure is innately connected to innovation. But it may not be connected in the way you think it is! I’ve discovered there are actually 3 reasons why failure is important to innovation. Let’s dig deeper to find out how we can achieve a bigger impact and become stronger leaders for our companies.

1) First, failure forces you to be open to listening.

Whether you like it or not, you probably have a little bit of ego standing in your way. But when you fail and your ego breaks down, you become open to listening and thus open to innovation.

When I was young, I tried to start an online fitness tracking business (long before the internet of things as we know it)! People told me it would fail and gave me plenty of reasons why it was likely to be an unsuccessful venture. I resisted them every step of the way because my ego was telling me that I knew all the answers!

Until… the company failed epically. At that point, my ears were open and I realized I didn’t have all the answers. That’s when I became open to innovation. Sometimes, we need to fail, forcing us to listen to others, because the truth is that we don’t know everything on our own.

2) Failure makes you own your mistakes.

When you fail, you can’t run or hide—especially when you fail in front of others. You have to own your mistakes. That lets you see the mistakes for what they are and allows you to build real solutions around them—something that is very valuable for sparking innovation!

I had a boss once who failed epically. He was someone who had often struggled to own his mistakes and had blamed others in the past. But in this particular moment, in this failure, he became open to innovation because he finally owned his mistake. He became a better leader and boss from that failure.

3) Failure gets you vulnerable.

I know that being vulnerable is hard— but it allows you to get the perspective you need in order to innovate. You want to look perfect, but truthfully, you aren’t—and failure can help you accept that.

When I was younger, I was promoted to senior exec in a global communications firm. I was the youngest on the team, and I had no idea what I was doing… at all! I decided to fake it until I make it. I will never forget my first big presentation in that job. I bombed. I don’t mean I failed in a small way. I absolutely bombed that presentation, and it was terrible!

One of my managers came to me afterwards and said, “I need you to ask for help when you need it. Get vulnerable and ask for help when you’re struggling.” I learned a lot from that failure and from that manager’s words of wisdom, even though at the time I was afraid I was about to be fired!

Failure is important to innovation because it forces us to listen, to own our mistakes, and to become vulnerable. Next time you make a mistake, remember that— and capitalize on the learning opportunities that failure can offer you!

Watch the video to learn about the 3 ways that failure sparks innovation.

By the way, if you're looking for tools to help manage stress, improve culture and boost innovation, check out our affordable, monthly subscription-based toolkit: