Category Archives: Innovation

What went wrong, and how to do better next time

NEXT time something doesn’t go the way you planned, no matter the scale, (a business failure, a disagreement, a poor restaurant experience, a trip over the curb, an interaction with an employee or colleague), don’t beat up on yourself.  Instead, stop and ask yourself two questions:

1.  What went wrong?

2.  What could I have done differently that would have made for a better outcome?

Don’t stop at the first reason you find, nor at the first “better way” that comes to mind.  Neither causes nor best practices are always immediately apparent, so a bit of deep thinking can reveal underlying causes and innovative solutions.

Small things won’t need much thinking,  (you tripped because talking on the phone, so next time, don’t walk and talk), while spectacular failures will take time to assess.  And often, bigger and more troubling mistakes or failures need some distance in time before you gain a broad and rational perspective.  Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Then, when you know what went wrong and what you could have done, make a commitment to yourself that when faced with a similar circumstance, you’ll try the new approach.

Make this a habit and you’ll never really experience mistakes or failures, just learning opportunities on the road to success.

And imagine what it will do for your self-doubt?

Sunday Reading – All About Innovation

HERE’S some material to get you thinking about innovation.

First, my take.  To foster innovation in your organization, here’s a quick & dirty list, (in no particular order), of elements to consider:

1.  Employ for diversity.  If you want different points of view (and innovation depends on it), you need lots of different ages, cultures, experiences, skills, world-views.

2.  Structure for collaboration.  A flat hierarchy, informal atmosphere, management transparency, and minimal bureaucracy keep people focused on the creativity, not paperwork and office politics.

 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

(CC BY-NC 2.0)

3.  Offer a creative environment. Office gray, glaring fluorescents, and hive-like cubicles just won’t cut it.

4.  Ensure employees use your product.  If they don’t use it, they don’t know it.  If they don’t know it, they can’t innovate it.

5.  Give time for thinking and creativity.  The creation process takes time.  Allow employees time to chase their dreams and develop their ideas.

6.  Encourage failure, reward success.  Within tolerable limits, allow risk taking and failure.  Nothing new and valuable comes without a mess of mistakes and screw-ups.  When good ideas add value to the organization, make sure the innovator(s) are well rewarded.

7.  Share knowledge and information.  Knowing “the big picture” and everything that’s going on in your organization allows new ideas to come from anywhere and everywhere.

8.  Provide channels for feedback and open communication.  Ideas develop and grow as they roll around – call it the snow-ball effect.

9.  Embrace serendipity.  How many times have you found something great while looking for something else?  In organizations, encourage people to chase down accidental leads.

10.  ?

I’m sure there’s more.  Feel free to add your ideas in comments.

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Here’s a great article, The Eight Pillars of Innovation, from Google, one of the most innovative organizations around.

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Bloomberg’s Business Week ran an article several years ago, 3M’s Seven Pillars of Innovation (innovation obviously requires pillars…).  3M famously (and serendipitously) gave us post-it notes, among so much else.  Visit their Innovation Center.

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Google for “TED Talks Innovation” and you’ll be busy for hours.  Here’s two thought provoking talks.

The first, by Charles Leadbeater really resonates with me.  We live in a world where anyone can take an innovative idea to the world; where big organizations are often playing catch-up to garage tinkerers.  That’s a great world to be part of.

This one, Steve Johnson on “Where Good Ideas Come From” traces the the trail of innovative ideas.  We’re standing on the shoulders of giants, and many not so giants.

Steve Johnson’s talk reminded me of a great old series I used to watch as a student:  “Connections” with James Burke.  Burke traces the historical precedents that step by step made possible the modern technologies that we take for granted.  I highly recommend making time for this series, which is available on YouTube.  #1 in the series is here: