Failing is a part of life. It is also an important part of creativity. I first introduced the importance of failing in the post Fail Fast, Fail Frequently … Really?? In the workshops I teach and in my soon-to-be-released book, Conditioning Your Mind: Fuel Creativity and Ignite Innovation, I discuss how to Fail . . . Like a Genius™. Only when you “fail like a genius” can you truly benefit from failing.
There are three ways to Fail . . . Like a Genius™.
- Repurpose your failure for a different use or different audience.
- Identify the cause of the failure, make adjusts, and try again.
- Don’t get discouraged by rejection and persevere.
Let me explain how these three methods are applied by providing three stories of people who failed like geniuses.
The invention of the metal-spring toy called Slinky was initially a failure. Mechanical engineer Richard James was working on a project to develop springs that could keep sensitive equipment steady while at sea. James had a shelf full of flimsy springs that could not support the shipping equipment. One day he accidently bumped into the shelf and watched as the springs gracefully walk down the shelf instead of falling. It was that moment James turned his failure into a success. He realized that when used for the original purpose, the flimsy springs were a failure, but if he repurposed them as a toy then they were a success. James’s failure became a success because he found a different purpose and a different audience for his spring.
The Wright brothers built several gliders and planes before achieving flight. Each time they tested and crashed, the brothers studied what worked and what did not work. They then went back to the drawing board to improve their design. Not only did they learn from their own failures, they also paid attention to what other aviation pioneers attempted and failed to accomplish, and made improvements on those ideas as well. Their process of identifying issues, adjusting, and trying again turned all of the previous failures into a major success with the first flight on December 17, 1903.
Lastly, the founder of KFC, Colonel Harland David Sanders, solicited 1,009 different restaurants to sell his famous, secret fried chicken recipe so he could build a chicken franchise. Each restaurant rejected him. However, Colonel Sanders knew he had a winning recipe, so he kept trying. He did not let the fear of rejection stop him. He persevered and eventually he succeeded. Today KFC is the second-largest restaurant chain, as measured by sales, and KFC fried chicken is the Christmas holiday meal of choice in Japan.
I encourage everyone to let these stories of “failures” inspire you. Go out and create, learn, innovate, and Fail . . . Like a Genius™.