Fear of failure and disruption; on stifling innovation.

This entry was posted by on Thursday, 2 May, 2013 at

IMG_3498I’m sure you’ve all heard it before, but what does it really mean to not be afraid to fail? I know a lot of us may say we’re not, but when it comes down to it, do our actions prove that to be true? In my experience and observations, no, they don’t.

For whatever reason, our culture has supported and ingrained the idea that failure is bad; that we must do everything in our power to appear successful regardless of the actual truth. I’m sure you’ve heard the business advice often provided to startups: “fail fast and fail often”. When this advice is taken to heart failure ceases to be scary and simply becomes a form of very valuable feedback. It is precisely this (or really, ANY) kind of feedback for which we are all so starved. Some of us get more feedback than others, granted, but I’m relatively certain none of us get anywhere near enough of it.

By only highlighting our successes, and hiding our failures, we are actually doing ourselves and our businesses critical disservice. How can we grow and evolve, or do the *right* things when we sublimate such important feedback and pretend we are all amazingly successful?

And wouldn’t you know, as I was writing this post, I serendipitously came across the following article also posted today by Brian Solis: Disruptive Selection – Natures way of weeding out the average business

In some ways, I think failure is seen as a disruptor as Brian points out: like it is something to stifle and subdue, rather than learn and innovate from as a lesson in either what not to do or how to change. Fear drives both the aversion to disruption, as well as the desire to hide failure. But, as Brian points out, the digital Darwinsim metaphor fits nicely as disruption (and failure) naturally evolve towards deeper innovation and ultimately more successes when it is understood and allowed to occur. Progress and success, however, are only stifled when disruption and failure aren’t even allowed to be recognized or acknowledged.

It is the cycle of business; innovate or die. In this cycle we must not only make room for disruption and failure to occur, but embrace them when they do. Only then can we see true innovation, change, and eventually success again.

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