Innovating means making mistakes. Even those innovations that are successful are often the result of a multitude of failures. Take the 3M Post-It Note: a product based on a “failed” glue formula, unsupported by management for years, which is now present in every stationery cupboard around the world.
A more tantalizing example: Viagra. When the active compound did not result in the intended cure for a heart condition, Pfizer altered its course – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Unfortunately, not every innovation goes from error to pleasure. More than 95 percent of innovations fail. Yet by now, most companies are convinced that a successful product is only possible by virtue of all the mistakes that preceded it – hence the attempt by an increasing number of organizations to create a “failure culture,” a work environment that stimulates teams to experiment, challenge the status quo, and proactively work on developing new products and processes.