Why I’m gonna fail harder

As I wrote about in my dissertation, creativity is vital for the innovation, and hence, the survival of most businesses (at least in developed countries). Indeed, creativity and innovation have essentially replaced raw materials, labour and capital as the key source of economic value and is now the primary source of competitive advantage, according to for example economist Richard Florida.

But how can creativity and good ideas be encouraged? Well, one highly typical way of killing creativity is to deter failure. Yes, that’s right, a work environment where people are afraid to fail is doomed to be thinking inside the box and creating safe, but bad and very few ideas. In Silicon Valley they have a special word for failure: Pivoting. That is how acceptable it is! The ingenious Sir Ken Robinson said in a highly recommended TED video: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

Check out this old, but great ad with Michael Jordan:

Failure is an irreplaceable ingredient in the creative process. Surely, a great deal of failure is central to the creation of anything in which quality is determined by subjective judgment. Failure should be embraced, yet that doesn’t mean that you should think too much about failures after the fact. Rather, you should communicate ideas often and as they appear. When you think you have a good idea you should sell the sh*t out of it, but also be quick to dismiss it if someone else has a better idea or a good counter-argument. I say this especially with marketing in mind, but of course it applies to everything that requires innovativeness and originality.

This is a picture of a wall inside ad agency Wieden + Kennedy made out of 100,000 pushpins. “The easy way would be to do the lettering as pushpins and leave the wall blank. They chose the hard way. It’s a perfectly executed concept”, Kennedy said in the celebrated documentary Art & Copy. If you fail, then fail harder.

Yet, “hard work is a waste of time if your idea sucks”, the legendary advertising copywriter Mark Fenske pointed out. But it also applies to a lot more than just advertising ideas. Just think of the show Dragon’s Den (Skaperen in Norway) where people invest their life savings and put their heart and soul into an idea only to be told that their idea sucks and to let it go months or years later.

So how do you know if you have a good idea? Primarily made for marketers, the book Made to Stick, Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die offers six areas of consideration or criteria when determining if your ideas will ‘stick’: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. I’m gonna make a check list.


One thought on “Why I’m gonna fail harder

  1. The buck stops while using guy who signs the checks.
    Economic downturn is not cured by legislative action or executive pronouncement. Economic wounds must be healed with the action with the cells in the economic body – the producers and consumers themselves.

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