Safe Innovation

Sir Ken Robinson, an international leader in the development of education, creativity, and innovation, says, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Interestingly, there are two opposing forces at work in this statement: A desire for originality and an assurance that we won’t fail.

We want “Safe Innovation.”

That’s where we miss the mark. Creativity and innovation requires a posture that’s okay with getting it wrong. In fact, if you’re innovating safely, you’re probably not innovating at all. That doesn’t mean that just because you’re wrong, you’re creative. But if you’re unwilling to embrace failure, innovation will never be your friend.

Robinson defines creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. And those original ideas are simply not possible if we’re always fighting to be right. So here are three questions to consider about “being wrong” as you seek to cultivate original ideas:

  • When was the last time you were wrong? Your answer to this question reveals how aggressive you are in creating and innovating. If it has been a while since you were wrong, you’re probably not too creative.
  • What was your response to being wrong? Your answer to this question reveals how willing you are to admit somebody else’s idea is better than yours. If you responded poorly, your creativity is probably in neutral.
  • How prepared are you to be wrong again? Your answer to this question reveals your readiness to venture outside of your comfort zone. Just because you failed doesn’t mean you’re a failure…it may mean you’re dancing on the edges of creativity.

So read Robinson’s words one more time: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” What thoughts would you add to Robinson’s insight.