Every Good Idea is the Child of Failed Parents

Nobody strives to fail, but when it comes to ideas, constructive failure is the price of success.

In start-up culture they call this “failing fast” – the quicker you fall on your face, the more you learn for the next iteration. In design thinking, feedback loops (also called design cycles) do the same job.

When I worked at Microsoft ideating on interface concepts for non-standard models like touchscreens or control-at-a-distance using voice or motion activation, feedback loops were a process imperative. Teams iterated quickly, sometimes in the same room, and regrouped as often as every hour to review thinking, discuss emerging ideas and plaster every surface in coloured post-its. Tight design cycles drove the project forward fast – the brightest ideas of the early morning might be a distant memory by lunch – with the shortcomings of any explorative thread quickly made apparent through immediate feedback that informed the next iteration.

The benefits of this consensus-based process are easy to see: good ideas are afforded a stay of execution that allows them to survive at least one more loop; bad ideas are discarded and take no more of anyone’s time.

Embrace constructive failure as a necessary procedural factor of creativity. Reaching “success” too early deprives the ideation process of invaluable future feedback loops.