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  • Esther

Innovation-oriented thinking

..or why failure is important.


I´ve recently started digging into Design Thinking and a whole new world has been opened up to me.

A design-thinking Wow-Factor inspired me and new ideas started to flood in.


I needed to write a lot of things down to bring some structure into my thoughts and I guess one of these write-ups is this blog post. In this, I want to talk a little bit about innovation and innovation-oriented thinking.


Let´s come back to the ideas I had. I know that having a lot of ideas does not mean that all of the ideas chiming in are great or even good. Some and maybe most of them are just that: Ideas and thoughts that are not coming to life.


But that´s of course not a problem - it is actually a good thing as -otherwise-, everyone would have a massive workload to bring all ideas to life or we would have fewer ideas.


I do not know whether there is an accurate or official number, so please bear with me and potential inaccuracy of this oversimplifying information: Maybe one out of ten or a hundred ideas is a good one that we can follow up with while the rest are only fractures and bricks that assist one of the ideas to come to life.

Wouldn´t you agree, that the more ideas you have, the more options you have to choose from? And the more options you have the more experience you gain: Be it by formulating ideas, getting ideas, combining ideas, or bringing an idea to life. Playing around with different ideas and ways to achieve things, checking for feasibility, and challenging yourself belong to the basic skillset of any person.


Let me give you an example of one of my ideas I had when learning about Design Thinking: It was this blog post about innovation-oriented thinking.

Disclaimer: What I am writing here is most likely not the academic definition of it, but my idea and my thoughts.

While this blog post is not published yet, it and the idea behind it has come to life already - at least partly and it keeps on growing with every word I write. And once you read this: It has been brought to life! Sweet, right? (I accept the objection that writing and publishing a blog post on a blog is not a new idea, but in any case, its content is.)


Another idea I had has been turned into a PowerPoint Presentation for my work that I presented to a couple of colleagues already with the goal to find someone who wants to work on this further. To be fair - it is not 100% related to what I am personally doing at work, but hey - if someone likes the idea and takes it: Wow! I am sure it would be a benefit for the company.

If not - well, that is also not an issue as

  • not all ideas are good per se and

  • even if this one would be a good project for the company, it will not hurt anyone that we didn´t launch it.


I don´t know for sure but chances are that it is indeed a brilliant idea, but my formulation was not convincing enough or maybe it is just not the right time for the right idea or I didn´t manage to find the right person to take it.

Whatever will happen - I think I -as a person- can only win or benefit as I gained experience: I am smarter than before and I learned another lesson about how to do or not to do something. I went through the process of getting an idea, connecting the dots to a real-life example, and managed to get the idea formulated into a presentation that I held three times already.


While I wish to get feedback that is challenging my approach and giving me some insights into why it gets a good or bad outcome, I am still grateful that at least one of the ideas made it this far to turn into a failure or a success.


Both outcomes -failure and success- are experiences, everyone should have as often as possible. While it would be great to have more successes than failures I guess in reality it is the opposite: We have more failures than successes. By acknowledging this and giving our successes the value they deserve and learning from our failures as much as possible we can only win.


Why that - you may ask? Don´t get me wrong: Success is great. Period. But most successes are the result of many failures. And this makes failure part of our successes, part of ourselves.

Did you ever learn how to react to failure? Have you ever noticed the power of the "Now-more-than-ever" feeling that lets your motivation and creativity skyrocketing? Did you ever feel that next time, you will be successful? By learning how to not to things you are getting closer to the point of how to do it. Right?


Long story short: What has this to do with innovation or innovation-oriented thinking?


Everything.


Innovation comes from acknowledging imperfection and room for improvements, followed by trial and error and an iterating process of progress. That implies that innovation also comes from failure.

So - any idea you have gives you the chance to innovate: Innovate your thinking, your experiences, and your way of mastering failure and success. While thinking about something, you live, you learn and you innovate. And all that, even though the idea might not come to life completely.


Learn from your failure and never stop exploring. I suggest acknowledging your power to change the world, and your way of thinking. The status quo is not the goal - it is all about development. The best outcome of development is that something or someone else improves too. In any case, I predict, you win.


I got a question for you: Are all your ideas becoming a success giving you honor and wealth and did every project you ever started work out well?

I hope I don´t tap on your toes, but I guess the answer is no. Now: Should the aforementioned keep you from having ideas or trying to bring one of them to life? For sure not.


Even the experience of failure is a lesson worth exploring to get to know yourself and your way of thinking better.

Challenge your learning mindset and instead of expecting perfection go for the innovation and experience. The first idea might not the best one nor the one that "wows" and works. The first idea might only be a kickoff for one hundred more ideas that are better or worse. Draft your ideas, put them in the bin, and re-draft them until you´re happy with them.


And while doing all of this: Do not demand success. Demanding success kills innovation as failure traditionally doesn´t count as success.


Let´s put this into an example: If you think about launching a blog but are expecting it to become a success, you put unnecessary pressure on yourself and the blog. Let´s say, you are defining success with one million subscribers within a year but the chances are high, that it might not attract a million people.

Does this make the blog a failure even though you launched it and put your time and effort and creativity into it?


Would it be possible that the expectation of one million subscribers would hinder you from launching the blog in the first place?

If so - you missed the chance to attract yourself or maybe one or two other persons or maybe even the million people you wanted to attract.


By launching the blog and with this, leaving your comfort zone, it is possible, that you actually experience something new that helps you improve, that innovates your way of thinking, and your way of writing.


Make sure not to let the expectation of success keeps you from being successful.


In the wish to avoid failure by fearing failure, you miss the chance to improve and to innovate and build a strong innovation-oriented mindset that accepts failure as learning.


Reach for the stars.

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