An Innovator has the Obligation to… Fail

Editor’s note: we invite you to Kim Chandler McDonald’s weekly interactive forum — to read and collect your comments on  “An Innovator has an Obligation to…”   We hope you’ll  join the conversation!

Week 06 theme: “Fail”

If, as George Carlin said, “An artist has an obligation to be en route”, please complete this sentence: An innovator has an obligation to…

– An innovator has an obligation to fail. Alina Erimia, Fashion Designer

– Yes, an innovator has an obligation to fail, and to start again and again. Valentino Baraldo, Freelance Software Developer and Student at Unipd

– Remain optimistic. Each failure moves you one step closer to success. Every journey to success is traveled on a bumpy road. Kelly Balthrop, Software Architecht

– To experiment, embrace failure and test alternatives. Chuck DeVita, Senior SaaS Sales and Marketing Executive, Enterprise Cloud Thought Leader

– Fail often to succeed sooner.  It is so important that we look at the art of innovation as a study in non-permanence. All this will change – what – we thought Kodak would be around forever didn’t we? Innovation looks for the breath of inspiration, environment, and required response and puts that to a voice. Ben Munkres, Experience Animator, Media Developer and Entrepreneur

Innovation comes in as many as eight flavours including two major types which are often referred to as incremental or disruptive innovation. That being said, innovation is distinctly different from invention and historically most successful innovations happen around great teams. For innovation to flourish, one needs to recognise that it is important to fail. Failure is what drives innovation and is the necessary part of the “Innovation Process”. Learning, iteration, adaptation and developing models are all manifestations of failure and innovation is the ability to learn and build upon these failures.William Saito, Author, Technologies Entrepreneur and Founder/CEO at Intercur, KK from Innovation: How Innovators Think, Act and Change Our World

Certain nations are – I believe to their detriment in the innovation stakes – renowned for the risk aversion of their populations. Though it is, admittedly, difficult to legislate, governments that encourage their citizens to take calculated risks are more likely to have innovations to hand upon which economies can flourish. Innovators constantly face the likelihood of failure. The fact that they move forward in the face of this Sisyphean situation, which sees them repeatedly guiding their innovations up the steep hill of potential while aware that they could just as easily roll back and crush them, is what separates them from the ‘would haves’ and ‘could haves’. The last thing they need is a government that ignores their achievements, let alone lies in wait to punish them for any failures they may meet along the way with such things as credit blacklisting, perennial personal liability and equating failure with fraud.– Excerpt from the author’s essay, The State of the Nation Addressed: Taking stock of how things stack up, from Innovation: How Innovators Think, Act and Change Our World


Invitation: If you would like to ‘have your say’, feel free to join in by sharing your thoughts below, and on the Innovation Excellence LinkedIn group forum!
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Kim Chandler McDonald is author of Innovation: How Innovators Think, Act and Change Our World, as well as the Co-Founder and Flat World Navigator at KimmiC, a company specializing in  leading edge innovations such as FlatWorld™ – digital technology that empowers endusers to easily capture, collaborate and capitalize on ideas, information and knowledge assets.

Kim Chandler McDonald




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No Comments

  1. Aaron Fanetti on April 14, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Fail-mongering in the innovation space is out of control. Innovators do not have an “obligation” to fail. Failure is simply an unfortunate side-effect of innovation attempts.

  2. Steve Davies on April 14, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    If anything fear of failure born of the risk aversion of businesses and the public service is what is out of control. That varies of course, but exceptions do not disprove the rule.

    So I have to say that innovators do have an obligation to fail. If that mindset is not adopted what you end up with is incremental innovation becoming the norm. an interesting form of self-censorship in the innovation field. One that can obviously cost dearly.

    And, no, that does not mean there is no place for incremental innovation. It’s no an either or proposition.

    • Aaron Fanetti on April 16, 2014 at 11:47 am

      So if you want to be a better boxer, then you should get punched in the face more?

      Failure is today’s bandwagon term. It’s proven to be an effective marketing tool for conferences, books and articles… but it’s an ill-focused business idea. There are better paths to building a culture of innovation – disruptive or incremental.

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