Why taking a positive approach to failure can lead to innovation

The constant push for innovation and creativity requires new knowledge creation.

How do our mindsets encourage or discourage this knowledge creation?

I believe it starts with positivity. We know we can train our brains to be more positive. Now, let’s take a look at the “business” case for positivity. 

Last week I had the privilege of sitting in on an inspiring lecture in the graduate school of Organizational Psychology at Columbia University. The class was entitled, “Positive Psychology”, and this happened to be the very first time a class on this growing field was being offered.

The mindset of an Improviser is rooted in many aspects of Positive Psychology, most notably is the way in which we view FAILURE.

Consider – what is your reaction to failure?

Often times we feel, or hear it’s more important to get something right than to experiment and take calculated risks. Instead, more value is placed on competence. Failure is feared, dreaded, and considered too expensive.

This focus on competence may be preventing you from taking the risks that can lead to that big innovative breakthrough. Simply put, focusing on competence alone can discourage new knowledge creation.

What positive psychology encourages is to adopt a new approach to the word “failure”.

To promote innovation and creativity, positive psychology challenges us to:

  • To be more willing to incur failure, to embrace it as you acquire knowledge and skills
  • Adopt a mindset of persistence, grit, resiliency and growth
  •  Seek a learning orientation instead of a competence orientation
  • Ask for help and encourage collaboration  – too much of a focus on independence may inhibit new knowledge creation

What is your organizational and personal response to failure?

It’s imperative to note that this approach does not encourage making careless mistakes and failing miserably.

Instead, it encourages you, your team, your organization to shift your mindset regarding “mistakes” and failure”.

When we are not punished for failing, we are opening ourselves up to try new things, taking risks, seeking new paths, new connections, all to increase our propensity for the kind of knowledge creation that leads to innovation.

After all, failure is only a true failure if you didn’t learn from the experience. 


2 thoughts on “Why taking a positive approach to failure can lead to innovation

  1. Pingback: Why taking a positive approach to failure can lead to innovation … « PerformanceVertical Perspectives

  2. Pingback: The changing definition of failure « Tools for Navigating Business Without a Script

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