Are you willing to fail, in order to succeed?

Edison Phonograph

Innovation is a mindset that can be developed. Innovators past and present have consistently practiced five key traits. Embracing risks and learning from failures is one of those five traits. When we think about iconic innovators, we automatically visualize their grand successes, not reflecting enough about the journey they took which was marked with experimentation, tinkering, prototyping, evaluating, and reiterating.

Dymaxion Museum

Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House

Failure, often associated with shame and denial is an inseparable step in the process of innovation. No wonder, Thomas Edison, the prolific innovator said, “I have not failed. I have just come up with 10,000 things that do not work.” Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House, considered a prototype was way ahead of its time. It was deemed a failed innovation as it did not accomplish commercial success, but the concept eventually led to the innovation of geodesic domes.

In reality though… does our education system, workplace or society allow failure? Do we debrief after a failure the same way we debrief after successes?! If we don’t embrace risks and don’t allow ourselves and others to embrace risk, failure and learning from failure, how will we come up with radical solutions to change the world?

Many corporations now have a “failure wall” where they encourage employees to be candid about failures and share the steps they would take to resolve the issues. Many other forward-thinking organizations allow their employees 10-20% experimentation time as part of their jobs to develop a new concept or find an improved model that addresses a problem.

How can you develop a mindset to embrace risk and learn from failures as well as inspire others to do the same?

While this is only one of the five keys to innovation, I will be speaking at the Pearson Learning Summit, April 9-10, 2015, regarding all five keys and how we can create a culture where innovative thinking is encouraged, practiced, and allowed to bloom beyond our institutional parameters. The 21st century with its rapidly evolving communication and technological transformation presents a tremendous opportunity for us all, to innovate, grow, succeed and contribute to the community at large. Learning to think innovatively is essential.

About the Author
Paula Gangopadhyay

Paula Gangopadhyay


Paula Gangopadhyay
, Chief Learning Officer of the Henry Ford and President Obama-appointed member of the National Board of Museums and Libraries, will engage audiences on ways to create a culture where innovative thinking is encouraged, practiced, and allowed to bloom beyond our institutional parameters.