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Failure Talk (Abridged)


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A brief talk about the theory and practice of failure in design, creativity, and innovation.

Published in: Technology, Business
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Failure Talk (Abridged)

  1. 1. Failing to innovate Darryl Gray, DNA 021 754 837
  2. 2. By way of intro: - We all design or create stuff - sometimes we need to be ‘innovative’ and do something new - if you don’t need to be innovative, this talk might not be for you. - if you do need to be innovative or unique - this talk is might be very useful - I think the concept of failure can help enormously
  3. 3. The Theory
  4. 4. - uh-oh - failure is normally associated with lack of success, things not working properly, etc. - generally has negative connotations! - but is there ‘good failure’? - I think so: - two categories
  5. 5. Unintentional failure 1(aka ‘Happy accidents’) - surprised if this hasn’t happened to you!
  6. 6. - For me, it’s usually in Photoshop, etc. - Accidentally press the wrong key combo
  7. 7. - “Wait a minute!” - Surprised at how many discoveries have been made accidentally - (The word ‘discovery’ implies surprise)
  8. 8. LSD Teflon Viagra x-rays brandy penicillin Cellophane
  9. 9. brandy penicillin Cellophane Scotchgard NutraSweet potato chips microwave oven vulcanised rubber Columbus’s discovery of America Etc. - Historical importance of these accidental discoveries is HUGE - Tend to think scientists plan everything - But the biggest leaps are always usually unexpected and unplanned
  10. 10. All things Known things - easy to see why: - it’s extremely difficult to conceive of what you don’t know - how can you know what you don’t know?
  11. 11. - I always use the example of the horse: - Ask someone in 1850 what transport they wanted: - “Faster horse that can go longer”
  12. 12. - No- on e sai d a ca r
  13. 13. - DEFINITELY no-one thought of this! - Anyway, we rely on accidental discoveries to leap forward. - This notion is well-described by ‘serendipity’
  14. 14. - Not, not that Serendipity
  15. 15. serendipity — the chance development of events in a beneficial way
  16. 16. “It is true that my discovery of LSD was a chance discovery, but it was the outcome of planned experiments [...] It could better be described as serendipity.” — Albert Hoffman, Swiss chemist
  17. 17. “Chance favours the prepared mind.” — Louis Pasteur, French chemist
  18. 18. Opportunities present themselves...
  19. 19. ...but you have to see them.
  20. 20. How many have you missed?
  21. 21. Intentional failure 2Failure as an innovation strategy - This is about deliberately carrying out failure as a tool.
  22. 22. All things Known things - Remember our diagram - We know that innovation happens out here - There are a few great solutions - But lots of lemons - To innovate, you need to be prepared to fail
  23. 23. - It’s like a game of chance - Lotto: the more you play, the more likely success becomes - Lotto is like a really ground-breaking innovation: - Be prepared to fail a lot - Winning $2 on Instant Kiwi is a much smaller innovation, much more achievable - You need to factor this into your timelines and way of working
  24. 24. “Try everything – see what works.”
  25. 25. Active Failure Strategy Don’t bank on one approach Expect to fail many times Learn from your mistakes Limit failure fallout/fail small - limit failure fallout: make sure you never fail too large
  26. 26. “Fail early, fail often” — IDEO mantra
  27. 27. failure time bad :( good :) - green line: IDEO model - red line: ‘systematic failure’
  28. 28. Prof. Jack Matson — Pennsylvania State University - Innovative Engineering Design course
  29. 29. Failure 101. - requires students “to build and attempt to sell outlandish and frequently useless products” - like a hand-held barbecue pit.
  30. 30. - Prof Matson takes IDEO further: - Fail faster - Maze analogy: - blindfolded person in maze will make frequent mistakes - will eventually get there - faster mistakes, faster to get there
  31. 31. - Makers found players were a bit bummed out about dying - By giving players info about how they died and how to improve - Death became a valuable and positive experience for players!
  32. 32. Failure is a positive experience if we can learn from it.
  33. 33. - How can we leverage failure in our line of work?
  34. 34. Failure = :-) - Finally, intentional failure has great effect on culture - Proven to be less stressful, happier, more fun
  35. 35. - Failure can give us a laugh
  36. 36. Failure = :-) and more productive too - BUT it’s also proven to be more productive way to work - There’s a company doing quite well who adopt failure strategy - Each employee has time to try stuff out, no pressure.
  37. 37. - You probably haven’t heard of them.
  38. 38. - If it’s good enough for Google ...
  39. 39. So... - To sum up the theory:
  40. 40. The failure paradox Failure is likely when you’re trying to succeed Success is likely when you’re trying to fail
  41. 41. Bad failure is an outcome. - it’s the end result - not good
  42. 42. Good failure is a process.
  43. 43. - tries lots of small things - the strong ideas survive - and become stronger
  44. 44. Innovative Old news - and because innovation only happens out here...
  45. 45. Innovation is impossible without embracing failure.
  46. 46. The Practice - So, very quickly! - What are some pragmatic things to help you fail like champ?
  47. 47. Eliminate fear 1 - Creatives say: “Don’t pressure me, man” and “I need my freedom” - Those creatives are often the ones that deliver gold - They intuitively understand...
  48. 48. Being free = lack of fear
  49. 49. Lack of fear = it’s okay to try and fail
  50. 50. Trying and failing = more likely to strike gold - So when that monkey in a suit is holding a gun to your head...
  51. 51. - Explain that to him.
  52. 52. Know about design management 2 - But you’ll probably need to compromise with that monkey - Design management is simple but not understood
  53. 53. - Give people 100% freedom when creating - No talk of deadlines, budgets, etc. - No idea is a bad idea - Critical part of brainstorming - But, once a direction or solution is agreed upon...
  54. 54. - It’s relentless pressure. - This pressure causes the brain to tune out other ideas and focus on delivering. - This is the compromise, and it is a good one in general. - I’ve had great success with this in the past... it's never let me down
  55. 55. Don’t be cool 3
  56. 56. “Don’t be cool” “Forget about good” — Bruce Mau “Trying to look good limits my life” — Stefan Sagmeister “The good is the enemy of the great” — Milton Glaser - When needing to be innovative or unique, good constrains you to the known and therefore you bad fail. - Note inversion of Milton Glaser quote
  57. 57. - If you don’t try, you won’t fail ... or succeed.
  58. 58. Start anywhere, don’t stop 4 - So start now! Start anywhere - go, go, go! - A common form of paralysis is not knowing where to start.
  59. 59. “Begin anywhere” “Keep moving” “Repeat yourself” “Stand on someone’s shoulders” “Imitate” “Work the metaphor” — Bruce Mau - All from Bruce Mau: - Note: do what you know, or copy someone. - Go from there...
  60. 60. Disclaimer-ise 5
  61. 61. “I know this is ridiculous, but ...” - Keep face by prefacing everything with: - Tell them you’re about to be stupid. - Disarm them.
  62. 62. Thanks :)