On Failing

I would like to talk about failing, failure and the hype surrounding it.

Failing is an inherent part of innovating. The more innovative your project, the bigger the chances are you’ll strand at some point. There is however a big difference between accepting failure as a part of an innovative process and accepting failure tout court.

I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work

This quote by Edison is used time and time again, I would like to put your attention on 2 things:

  1. Finding ways that don’t work is not the same as learning something. Experimenting can be extremely fun, but it’s not always useful.
  2. You’ll learn more from succeeding than from failing. Most of the time, when failing, you don’t learn what you should have done, you’ll learn what you did and why that didn’t work. Succeeding in a project however, learns you what does work AND gives you more satisfaction.

You should always aim to land your projects. In a project (innovation process, however you call it), I see two big kinds of failure: Failing during the process (experimenting) and failing at the finish (blind persistence).

If you experiment during a process, you’ll have to test several setups and see which one’s the best. Some tests will turn out good, some won’t.  With every step you take in a process, make sure that your choice is well grounded and that you rule out failure as much as possible in the next stage of the project (or stop the project if it’s not feasible). Failure that emerges at the end of a project is (in my opinion) the result of blind persistence.

Accept experimenting as a part of the process, aim for success, learn to cope with failure.


About leyssensjan

Jan Leyssens is a designer and entrepreneur who strongly believes you can’t turn sustainability into a positive story if your main focus is on negative impact. When designing, he is always looking for the overlap between activism and entrepreneurship, technology and community. His main expertise lies in strategic business model development, Circular Economy, the makermovement, and social innovation. With a background in Industrial Design, Jan quickly shifted his focus towards business design and using the design process in strategic management. Jan is the father of two kids and founder & CEO of Regenerative Design, co-founder of Full Circle, ImpactBoost, and the Circular Design map, podcaster, storyteller, and changemaker.

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