Burst of Innovation - The 3 Ways that Failure Sparks Innovation

woman cluttered desk doing it all alone

Why is Failure Important to Innovation?

Failure and innovation go hand in hand. But why is it, that failure is a word we hear a lot more of in business? Many companies use it, almost as their mantra. People say things like, “Love your failures” and “You can’t succeed without failure.” These things are true, of course, but, 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. So let's take a minute and learn why failure and innovation go hand in hand. Let's learn why innovation needs failure. Let’s dig deeper to find out how we can achieve a bigger impact and become stronger leaders for our companies.

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, your ego breaks down. Your new found humility steps in and you become more open to listening. When you start listening, you become more open to innovative ideas. 

When I was young, I was a little bit ahead of the game and tried to start an online fitness tracking business. From the start, people told me it would fail. They offered plenty of reasons why it was likely to be an unsuccessful venture. I, having not failed yet, resisted them every step of the way. My ego kept telling me that I knew all the answers!

Until… the company failed miserably. At that point, my ears opened up. I realized I didn't have all the answers. Then, lo and behold, I became open to innovation. Sometimes, we need to fail. It forces us to listen to others. We have to learn that we really don’t know everything on our own.

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. It allows you to build real solutions around them and spark innovation.

Years ago, I had a boss who failed and failed big. He often struggled to own his mistakes and had blamed others in the past. In this particular failed situation, he became open to innovation. Why? He finally owned his mistake. He became a better leader and boss from that failure.

Failure makes you vulnerable.

Being vulnerable is hard. But, it allows you to get the perspective you need in order to innovate. You want everything to go perfectly but it often doesn't. Failure forces you to be vulnerable because it forces you to accept that things under your watch rarely go perfectly. 

When I was younger, I was promoted to senior exec in a global communications firm. I was the youngest on the team. I had no idea what I was doing. Or course, I decided to fake it until I made it. When my first presentation came up, I was nervous, but felt prepared. Was I wrong! I bombed. I don’t mean I failed in a small way. I absolutely bombed that presentation. It was terrible!

One of my managers came to me afterwards. I thought I was going to be fired on the spot. Instead, he said, “I need you to ask for help when you need it. I need you to get vulnerable and ask for help when you’re struggling.” I breathed a huge sigh of relief and took his words to heart. I learned a lot from that failure and from my manager’s words of wisdom. 

Failure is important to innovation because it forces us to listen, to own our mistakes, and be vulnerable. Next time you make a mistake, remember that. And then, flip it on its head. Capitalize on the learning opportunities from that failure and go spark some innovation.

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

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