ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘failure’

Chef Guy Fieri on Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 1, 2014

Every time I get the opportunity, I ask great chefs this simple question:

What does innovation mean to you?

This year at the International Home and Housewares Show, I caught up (quite literally as you see from the video,) with Chef Guy Fieri.  His response to the question: “What does innovation mean to you?” is shown below.  Give it a watch and join me below the video and I’ll share my thoughts.

Chef Fieri’s thoughts echo, I think, what many people believe innovation is:  The willingness to “step outside the box” and try new things, the willingness to experiment.  Undergirding this willingness, though, is a key acceptance of failure.  He realizes that not everything will be great but we won’t know unless we try.

It’s quite simple really, if we think something, try it and see what happens.  Small changes can have huge impacts; wolves can change the course of rivers.

What are your thoughts on Chef Fieri’s approach?

~~~

Thank you, Chef Fieri!  You’re schedule was fast paced and packed with action (like your food!) and taking the time to chat was most gracious.  Thank you, and keep rocking!

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Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Food, innovation, Interviews, Nature of Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovation – It Was Never About Failure

Posted by Plish on May 29, 2013


In my last post about the IIT Design Strategy Conference, I mentioned that Bruce Nussbaum presented on what it means to move from a design centered, to a creativity centered, paradigm.  One thing in particular Nussbaum noted was the shift from celebrating failure (fail fast, fail often) to gaming/play!. He summarizes his perspective in a blog post about fetishizing failure.

When he first mentioned it at the conference, I wrote down, and circled, the following rebuttal in my notebook:

“Failure IS Play!”

I’ve been chewing on that for the last week, and while I understand the gist of what Nussbaum was getting at, in the context of design and innovation, it’s an oversimplification to simply say we need to move from failure to gaming.

A couple weeks back I wrote a piece entitled, “When Success is Bad – The Math Behind Why Failure is Essential.”  I used the word ‘failure’, but in actuality it’s probably closer to a Nussbaumian perspective.

You see, no one really thinks failure is what’s happening when we say, “Fail Early, Fail Fast, Fail Often.”   What we’re really saying is:

The quicker we can understand the interplay between all the variables in a system/product, the quicker we get ahead of the competition. 

Learn Early, Learn Fast, Learn Often…

Failure, as Nussbaum points out in the above article, is indeed painful and can be limiting.  There is a finality to the term failure that is unforgiving.   When a bridge ‘fails’ it goes down and people get hurt. When there’s a power ‘failure,’ electricity simply isn’t there. Failures are an absence of  success, and as voids they carry no information other than there’s no success to be found there.

Success, contrary to Nussbaum’s assertion that one can learn as much or more from success, is, as I pointed out in my “Why Success is Bad…” post, not educational at all if things work and we don’t know why they work.  We’ll go along happy as larks thinking all is well until things go bad.

Success can also be a void.

No, strictly speaking, we learn not from failure or success.  We learn from probing, through curiosity, tinkering, experimenting.   The instant we allow there to be voids of  ‘failure’ and ‘success’, there is no possibility for learning, for growth.  It’s only when we step back and ask, “Where am I going? How will I get there? How does this event help or hinder the journey?” that design/innovation can occur.

“Where am I going? How will I get there? How does this event help or hinder the journey?”  What do these questions look like?

They look like the type of questions we would ask when playing a game! No one fails or has success in a game because favorable or unfavorable outcomes can change the next time the game is played.   Like the computer in the movie ‘WarGames,’ running through multiple scenarios, one could say it was failing early, failing fast, and failing often. That wouldn’t be entirely accurate however, because the computer was only playing – and therein lies my beef with Nussbaum (if it can even be called a ‘beef’. )

People use the word ‘failure’, but they’ve never really meant the word ‘failure.’  Failure was never really a part of the old design paradigm, (but it is a part of our language.)  If people were designing, they were playing all along…

When I was a kid, my mom or dad would call from the other room, “What are you doing?” Sometimes I was purposefully moving toys or figurines, or designing and building worlds that blended reality and imagination, coloring, creating and appreciating beauty, sometimes taking clocks apart to see what makes them tick… but regardless, my response would be:

“I’m playing!”

Posted in Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, games, innovation, Innovation Tools, Play, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

When Success is Bad – The Math Behind Why Failure Is Essential

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2013

We all know Murphy’s Law: “Whatever can go wrong, will.”

But, what happens when the right things happen for what we think are the right reasons?

Or, restating in a slightly different way:

In any system there are ways of achieving the correct result through a combination of known and unknown means.

As any product developer will tell you, there are times when you test a product (or code) and it works.  You get excited. You decide to show your results to others. You do everything the exact same way you did last time, only this time, it doesn’t work.

Not. At. All.

How does this happen?

Let’s imagine a product as a mathematical expression: A+B+C=X (eq.1).  A, B, and C are things that we know, things that we do to bring about X which is the result we want to have happen. Let’s call this the “Success Equation”.

The equation for some undesired outcome could be depicted as: A+B+C+W=Z (eq.2). W is some known wrong step or condition that causes Z, which is an undesired result. We can call this the “Devil We Know” equation.

Now, when working with a product prototypes we actually only know what we know.  Sounds obvious right?  Another way to say this is:  We don’t know what we don’t know.

What this means is that the REAL equation for our product is very often: A+B+C+D+E+F=X.  (eq. 3) This is one of many versions of what I’ll call the “Devil We Don’t Know” equations.

A, B and C are known and are BOLD in the equation.  D, E and F, are grey because we don’t even know these variables exist.  Nevertheless, they are a part of the equation and if they all come into play, X occurs, so we’re happy.

And that’s a problem.

Why?

What happens if D, or E, or F, or some combination of these disappear?  We could get the formula A+B+C+E+F=Z, (eq.4) .  What gives?  We’re doing everything right, just like we were before, and getting the wrong result!!!

And it gets worse…

If n=”The number of variables we don’t know, but when all are present result in success”, then there are 2(n)-2 possible permutations of possible failure modes. In other words, if there are two unknown variables, then there are two possible failure mode combinations; 3 variables translates to 6; 4 to 14; and 5 unknown variables could lead to 30 possible failure modes!

Which brings us to the main point of this post.

Failure in the product development process is a necessity!

Why?

We ultimately want to get to the Success Equation (eq.1).  We want to be able to know that every time we do A and B and C, we get X.

The best way to get there is to convert every “Devil We Don’t Know” equation (eq.3) to a “Devil We Know” equation (eq. 2). And that only happens through testing, experimenting, failure, and learning from those failures.

So the lesson from this Law is this:  Next time you’re testing a product and it works as expected, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your product is working perfectly.  Test. Fail. Test again! Avail yourself of digital tools and novel testing techniques (and people that like to break things) to create failures and learn from them. Find out what you don’t know.

Fail early, fail often, fail to learn, fail to succeed.

Oh, and this Law needs a name. Any suggestions?

Posted in Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Metrics, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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