How many failures does it take to ship a successful innovation?

Here is the quick story. Leadership said they want innovation, worker has idea, worker starts project, project fails. What do you think happens next?

Innovation Frustration

Well what should happen is that the worker starts another project based off a different idea. In fact even if the first project was a success, as long as leadership still needs innovation, the worker should always be leading a project.

In reality we have a problem. That problem is after one failure or two or twenty people eventually start to get demotivated. Your job as a leader is to keep people motivated. You can do this with mission, strategy, improving the system, etc. But I have a new idea IÕd like to try.What if we were open about how hard innovation really is, how long things really take and stop talking about what worked one time and and talk about 99 failures before it.

Here are two statistics about failure that help provide a reality check.

On average 30% of Innovations that ship fail and

4% of ideas that are defined innovation projects ship.

My advice to leadership.

When you say you want innovation and set that mission, make sure there are always at least 100 rough ideas ready to enter the pipeline. Without an abundance of ideas, organizations tend to keep working on projects that should have been stopped, because there arenÕt options for new projects.

Innovation Failure

Also educate your project leaders to be ready to fail 25 times for every one time an idea makes it to market and be prepared to fail over 80 times before seeing their idea have success in the marketplace.

Lastly fail faster. This past month I lead two projects that failed within our organization. One failed very quickly, within hours. The other showed more promise and I even created a prototype to test online. That test was a failure. I wasnÕt frustrated that it failed, I was frustrated that I wasnÕt able to kill the project before putting the time into prototyping. Failing fast is a good way to learn without killing motivation.

Post questions and comments below.