The thing that most often gets in the way of brilliant ideas is the desire not to be wrong. When we second-guess ourselves, convince ourselves of the error in our thinking, tell ourselves that our idea will fail, or listen to others who poo-poo our bursts of brilliance, innovation and growth suffers.

A great leader not only facilitates innovative thinking and great ideas but encourages failure as well. A great leader says “Let’s try it” rather than “That won’t work;” “Take a risk” rather than “Play it safe;” “What do you need?” rather than “What were you thinking?” He or she knows that some of the best ideas can come from small tweaks and incremental improvements rather than waiting for “the next big thing.”

Two illustrative articles highlight the importance of encouraging incremental innovation and being OK with failure. The first, published in a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal and posted on the WSJ blog, focuses on the Nobel Laureate who discovered DNA. Apparently he had many ideas, but only a few that took hold and grew to be significant findings. It was his continuous often seemingly insignificant progress and discoveries that led to greater innovation. We can embrace his approach to build an environment of creativity and freedom to question the status quo…which can bring out great ideas.

The second piece, an interview for Entrepreneur magazine with Sir James Dyson of the Dyson Company, focuses on the importance of failure in true innovation. Dyson had over 5,000 failed versions of his first breakthrough vacuum cleaner design before going to market with the renowned Cyclone. When asked how he encourages risk-taking among his employees, Dyson offered these suggestions:

Broadening your view of what innovation looks like, so that you see it in even the simplest ideas and incremental changes and build a culture that embraces failure – that’s a recipe for creative Thoughtful leadership™!

How has failure helped you be innovative?
Please leave a comment to share.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

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