Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Creativity and Failure

"Creativity is a consequence of sheer productivity. If a creator wants to increase the production of hits, he or she must do by risking a parallel increase in the production of misses. ... The most successful creators tend to be those with the most failures!" Dean Keith Simonton

Robert Sutton wrote in Weird Ideas That Work, that "in a typical year this group of about 10 people generated just over 4,000 ideas (which they know because all ideas are tracked on a spreadsheet):
Of these 4,000 ideas, 230 were thought to be promising enough to develop into a nice drawing or working prototype. Of these 230, 12 were ultimately sold. This "yield" rate is only about 1/3 of 1% of total ideas and 5% of ideas that were thought to have potential. Boyle pointed out that the success rate is probably even worse than it looks because some toys that are bought never make it to market, and of those that do, only a small percentage reap large sales and profits. As Boyle says, "You can't get any good new ideas without having a lot of dumb, lousy, and crazy ones."'
No one should choose the option of failure deliberately, but trying especially hard to avoid it means taking no chances on change. The better message to get across is that failure is a by-product of risk-taking, and honest mistakes will be forgiven.

All of the above are from an article, Forgive and Remember, by Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University. He studies and writes about management, innovation, and the nitty-gritty of organizational life.

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