How Can Failures Fuel Learning?

By Ludwig Melik, HYPE Innovation |  September 24, 2019
Failure in some of your innovation initiatives is, more often than not, inevitable. The lack of visibility into the ROI of innovation activities and the fact that today’s duds can sometimes become tomorrow’s commercial successes tells you everything you need to know about this problem. Innovation remains the most elusive activity for any company to get right, and the only one where many misfires are needed before one good shot gets through.

Ludwig Melik, Planbox

Couple this reality with quarterly obligations and the massive regulations companies need to comply with, and the result amounts to a perfect storm, forcing most companies to shortchange their future to meet their near-term obligations. You would not accept losing the majority of your clients before you figured out how to run your customer service operation, or alienate almost all of your employees before you learned how to manage your payroll system. Yet in innovation, the expectation is exactly that. However, failure is the necessary first step before you can make a crucial leap forward in the right direction. If you never try, you will never know.

In innovation, failure is not the exception, but rather the rule. As such, innovation should be viewed as the perpetual pursuit of learning. Think of innovation as being the school of life where experimenting, learning, and sharing are the pillars of the innovation management cycle that ensure a successful future for both yourself and those around you. However, it’s not all doom and gloom; through the following five lenses, companies can assess the value created from every failure and use it as a learning opportunity to determine if, in fact, a failing grade can be upgraded to a satisfactory one.

1. Learning and Sharing

Communicating lessons learned from a failure will help your organization find the optimal solution, and ensure others avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.

2. Experimenting and Execution 

An experiment must be defined and launched in a timely and cost-effective manner. Improving the experimentation velocity by refining your agility means you can carry out more experiments and accelerate learning. This is often the most under-appreciated consideration—yet it impacts all the other lenses, as it increases your organization’s overall ability to recover from failures.

3. Future Innovation Value 

Raising the original estimated value of an idea and pursuing higher innovation ambitions can produce more significant outcomes. The snowball effect is a major source of value creation, helping you identify new opportunities that grow market size or broaden the scope of your innovation activities.

4. Customer Churn

Reducing any negative influence on your customer satisfaction level or avoiding any negative impact on customer allegiance are absolute musts. Brand loyalty is under serious threat as consumers constantly seek the latest, greatest, and cheapest. A culture of innovation within your organization will establish a long-lasting relationship with customers who follow the most innovative brands.

5. Employee Well-Being

Your employees’ health, work conditions, and productivity will greatly benefit from this work. Trying new things breathes new life into everyday activities. With every experiment, your workforce will build a stronger work ethic that encourages team members to make more valuable contributions. This mindshift is the most important transformation that is now occurring in organizations, as they gravitate from a reliance on protecting their core business to constantly thinking about how they can transform themselves to avoid getting disrupted.

Ludwig Melik is the CEO of Planbox. InnoLead regularly publishes Thought Leadership pieces written by our Strategic Partner firms.