Identifying successful innovations is a comparatively easy exercise, as you have already seen. A somewhat greater challenge is to remember your own failures or the flops of others. One’s own failures are often banned from our active memory by repression mechanisms. However, this is not very helpful. It’s a truism that you learn from mistakes. What may be new to you is that, scientifically proven, one sometimes learns more from the mistakes of others than from one’s own mistakes.
But that is easier said than done. The flops of others often do not become visible because nobody likes to talk about failures. The mistakes, the flops, the failed projects, etc. are swept under the carpet.
Still, try to identify flops.
- So try to find a few innovations that you would classify as unsuccessful. Again, focus on your daily or business environment.
- Why were these innovations not successful? In retrospect, try to analyse the factors that were responsible for the failure.
- What can you learn for yourself or for your company from the failure?
Innovation and failure
The literature also shows, however, that it is indeed the case that one usually learns more from the mistakes of others than from one’s own. This does not sound plausible at first, but there are empirical studies that convincingly prove exactly that. Moreover, attribution theory in psychology says exactly that (Bledow et al. 2017; KC et al. 2013):
Attribution theory first explains to what cause we attribute failure and success. This attribution is important if we are to learn from success or failure. Here is a brief, perhaps simplified, presentation of the theory:
Learning from mistakes
Innovation & Failure. The Basis for Building the Future (in Englisch) – Bernd Ebersberger, MIT Conference 2017