Innovation Requires a Culture for Reworking Failure

Susan Hall

Author and former venture capitalist Peter Sims makes the point in this TechCrunch piece that it takes a lot of failure to find that which is considered brilliant. Actually, it takes an incredible amount of learning what doesn't work.


And Jet Blue CIO Joe Eng says that if you want innovation, management has to make that every employee's job-and to create a culture that rewards trying to solve problems, even if those efforts fail. Willingness to take chances appears to be a defining tenet of Google's corporate culture, as my colleague Ann All has written.


Harvard Business Review has a whole special issue on failure and learning from it. In this post, writers Jay F. Terwilliger and Mark H. Sebell, managing partners at Creative Realities, say that successful innovation requires motive, means and opportunity and that companies abandon "failures" pretty quickly. Yet circumstances are in flux: strategies change, leaders change, markets change and technology changes. True innovation might just be a matter of revisiting the idea and tinkering to take advantage of new circumstances.


I like the approach of Seattle game developer PopCap, which is launching a studio called 4th & Battery where employees are encouraged to quickly test "strange or marginal ideas." With outlets such as mobile devices and social sites such as Facebook, speed to market matters more for game developers than what GeekWire describes as PopCap's previous "fanatical focus on high-quality game play and design." It still values high-quality games, but needs to learn to be more nimble in developing them.


Ed Allard, vice president of studios at PopCap describes the studio as "a pressure valve intended to keep our heads from exploding."

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