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Innovation: Useful knowledge from failure

How to take advantage of the lessons learned from failure (and also from success)?

August 7, 2023
Innovation: Useful knowledge from failure

How to take advantage of the lessons learned from failure (and also from success)?

Part of the endless debate between failure and success is the knowledge derived from these experiences. Through our extensive experience in organizing private events and creating courses for companies, we have encountered numerous perspectives on the insights gained from both failure and success. Countless discussions have arisen regarding which experience is more valuable, where to find the best lessons, and whether discoveries from either hold more significance.

While there is no straightforward answer to this age-old debate, one undeniable truth remains: knowledge is inherent in every experience, provided we take a moment to pause, reflect, and process it.

The true challenge lies in how effectively we process and leverage this information. It hinges on our willingness to dedicate time to in-depth analysis and whether we possess the resources to document and share these findings

When we talk about innovation, we also talk a lot about the difference between "useful" and "useless" knowledge. But beyond that, this categorization, it is crucial to address the importance of documentation and practical application. That's why we want to touch on a topic that generates a lot of interest among companies that are interested in our innovation workshop: How can we harness the lessons learned from both failure and success?

Time and space 

In our earlier discussion, we likened the process of innovation to a chess game, where progress is made step by step, just like the movement of the king's piece. However, before we delve into collecting knowledge from successes and failures to drive innovation, it is vital to recognize that innovation requires both time and space to flourish.

And before even considering collecting information and knowledge from a success or failure to innovate, it must be understood that innovation requires time and space to happen. That is:

  1. Enough time:  To apply a trial and error scheme (essential for any creative and strategic ideation process). As well as brainstorming processes, post-mortem analysis, documentation of learnings, and sharing of findings.

  1. Safe spaces to propose with complete freedom and transparency, whether new ideas or red lights on a new project. As well as spaces with sufficient resources and tools to propose, debate and test.

By ensuring these conditions, we create an atmosphere where innovation can thrive. However, how can we structure findings and data to create valuable knowledge?

From data to wisdom 

In the race for innovation there is no such thing as "useful" or "useless" knowledge. The real challenge lies in identifying key learnings and interpreting them to build upon in the pursuit of innovation. 

To navigate this process effectively, we can rely on the Knowledge Pyramid:

Data: It's a collection of unorganized facts from the real world or an event.

Information: Information involves logically connecting the data and cleaning it to select relevant pieces for analysis, measurement, and visualization. Categorization into groups or categories can help answer questions like "Who?" "What?" "Where?" and "When?" 

Knowledge: Knowledge emerges when we ask “how”? It is the organization of various information, culminating in a cohesive concept. Knowledge is attained when we perceive information as more than just organized data; rather, we understand its practical application towards specific objectives. Often, this knowledge becomes a competitive advantage within an industry.

Wisdom: Wisdom represents the applied use of knowledge. It involves asking questions like "What is the best course of action ?" or "Why should we choose option x or y?" Wisdom embodies the ability to make informed decisions and draw from accumulated experiences.

As we can see, knowledge accumulates and expands, leading to a deeper understanding. That is why both new and existing knowledge hold enormous relevance. Therefore, we should consider the synthesizing and sharing of:

What worked: Previous successful innovations, challenges faced and their effective solutions.

What did not work: Previous failures and unsuccessful attempts that may offer valuable insights for the future.

What hasn't been used: Discoveries, inventions, and ideas that have yet to be applied or demonstrated.

What has not been addressed: Unsolved problems or issues that are not yet fully understood.

What others are doing: Insights from other industries, contexts, or societal innovations. 

Each of these aspects contains its own set of data, and therefore, its own applicable wisdom. As you can guess, these processes require sufficient time and space to be effectively explored, leading us toward new and innovative territories.

Leveraging the lessons learned from mistakes can consistently unlock novel ideas and new possibilities. However, attempting to rush knowledge management with a "Fail fast" philosophy may hinder our chances for improvement and growth.

It is this same philosophy that we try to manage in our course for companies "Failure and Innovation", where we analyze the relationship between both concepts and explore the processes that stop or drive the delicate process of analysis, creativity and innovation.

IIf you are interested in fostering a culture of innovation and development in your company or exploring any of our other online courses, workshops, or private Fuckup Night events, please, fill out this form, and we will get in touch with you

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Innovation: Useful knowledge from failure


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