Saturday, 8 December 2012

Will You Rather Fail?

Very often the best way to test an idea is not to analyse it but to try it. The guys that implements lots of ideas are likely to have many failures, but the chances are it will reap some mighty successes, too.

In order to develop the concept of the benefits of failure, Penn State University has a course for engineering students called Failure 101. The students have to take risks and do experiments. The more failures they have, the sooner they can get an A grade!

Many great successes started out as failures. 3M invented glue that was a failure – it didn’t stick. But it became the basis for the Post-it note – a huge success.

Scientists at Pfizer tested a new drug called Viagra, to relieve high blood pressure. Men in the test group reported that it was a failure as regards high blood pressure but it had one beneficial side effect. Viagra became one of the most successful failures of all time.

Even if the failure does not lead directly to a success, it can be seen as a step along the way.
Edison’s attitude to ‘failure’ is salutary. When asked why so many of his experiments failed he explained that they were not failures. Each time he had discovered a method that did not work.

Tom Watson Jr. was the legendary President of IBM, who led the company through the high-growth years when it was the most admired business in America. He encouraged what he called ‘wild ducks’, people with unconventional, and sometimes disruptive, ideas.

In 1985 Coca Cola experimented by introducing ‘New Coke’ – a new flavour to replace ‘Classic coke’. It had tested well in consumer testing, but it was a marketing disaster and flopped.

Did this great disaster do any long term harm to Coca Cola? Probably not. It was an experiment that failed, but Coca Cola survived, learned and prospered. As Nietzsche put it: ‘That which does not kill me makes me stronger.’

In conclusion, to be innovative you must encourage a culture of experimentation. You must understand that each failure is a step along the road to success. To be truly adaptable, you must have the freedom to innovate, the freedom to experiment, the freedom to succeed. That means you must embrace the freedom to fail, too.

Tomisin Ajiboye


  1. Great one here this morning. I can clearly read the writer's name from the text. you can only get this from the father of crazetivity.
    Short and straight forward.

    guys you can also engage the writer on Twitter - @tomisinajiboye

  2. Very inspiring. Never pass up an opportunity of experimenting....