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Career Success
JUL 24, 2020

5 Ways to Innovate Failure and Get Out of Your Own Way

By Kay Makishi
iStock | @metamorworks

Failure: that dreaded F-word. Few areas of mainstream culture encourage failing. Traditional education uses the carrot and stick methodology to reward us for good work and punish us when we fail. But this restricts creative thinking and doesn’t allow a cushion for people to venture outside the norm.

Yet at its core, innovation requires venturing outside the norm. For a business or organization to keep growing it needs to keep evolving. This is why emphasizing progress over perfection is imperative for any modern organization. Every “failure” should be seen as a lesson. When you wait until every detail is perfect, the opportunity may pass you by. Even worse, you may never get started.

In order to advance our businesses and society, it’s time we start embracing progress over perfection. Here are five strategies you can implement to help you embrace failure and get out of your own way. 

1. The Deathbed Exercise

Do proper due diligence before starting something, but don’t get stuck in the planning phase. Understand that assessing the risk both ways means assessing the risk of moving forward with your dream, and the risk of not doing it. On your deathbed, will you regret moving forward? Or will you regret your inaction? Only you know the answer.

2. Fall Forward

“Falling forward” is another concept widely embraced by innovators. Speed is important in a lot of organizations, so taking a massive imperfect action is usually touted more than getting every detail right. Rather than “one and done,” the idea is to constantly iterate and build products by incorporating real-time user feedback.

This approach is great in life as well. Time only moves forward, so the best approach is to allow your “failures” to inform to future decisions and make you wiser.

Constantly moving forward and celebrating progress over perfection is the key. Consistency and focus, tiny steps every day, compound over time and result in achievements. Overthinking and taking no steps is just getting in your own way.

A young boy dressed as a businessman wears a paper bag with a sad face on it The economy has pushed his business down. He sits at his desk with retro computer and phone.
Don’t be like Mr. Business Bag. Be SMART! iStock | @RichVintage

3. If You Want to Succeed, Be SMART

It’s important to have clear goals. According to numerous studies, writing down your goals dramatically increases your chances of achieving them. There are many goal-setting systems. One of the most popular is the SMART goals system, which allows you to set very specific targets. It also helps you reverse-engineer your goal so you can take actionable and practical steps towards your goal every day. Putting these logical structures in place helps us stay focused.

4. Micro Plan for Macro Goals

If you feel overwhelmed by your massive dream and you’re unsure where to being, write down what you truly want to accomplish. Start by asking yourself, what would one day living out that goal look like?

Let’s say your dream is to become a Hollywood movie producer, but you’re unsure how to start. What would a single day look like living out that goal? Well, it probably involves filming and directing actors and actresses. You can form a microcosm of that big goal by starting small and making, for example, a film on your smartphone.

Taking tiny steps as soon as possible will help you figure out if you actually want to go through with your dream, or if you’re just enchanted by the idea.

5. Find Your People

Create an accountability system for yourself to help you stay on track. Don’t get distracted by social media or confuse “research” as taking action. Apps and communities, both online and offline, help you track your time spent and progress toward your goals. Finding other like-minded people helps raise the tide for everyone and ensures sustainable, continued growth. Every Irene is an example of one international community helping to elevate women and their allies in Japan.

Whatever project you’re working on, remember focusing on progress over perfection will help you achieve it faster. Good luck!