No failures, no progress.

No failures, no progress.

Mar 28th, 2013

A British engineer, named Pugsley, said in 1966 that “a profession that does not make mistakes is a profession that does not progress” (Pugsley A.G. 1966, The Safety of Structures, Edward Arnold Publishing ltd, London). In his pioneering book on the safety of structures, Pugsley related that fighter pilots in WWII went up against the enemy even when there was a high chance of being shot down. However, the same pilots demanded design changes if the structural failure rate of their aircraft was more than 5/100,000 per flying hour. A harsh way to look at no failures, no progress.

No failures, no progress.

A group of pilots of No 1 Squadron RCAF, gather round one of their Hawker Hurricane Mark Is at Prestwick, Scotland. Source

Almost half a century later later, large companies (Tata Group for example, India’s largest conglomerate) reportedly hand out an annual “Dare to Try” Prize for “the best failed idea”.

Ratan Tata, the former chairman of the group used to say that failures are like a gold mine for a company. We would add absolutely, yes, and it has been so since Humans started to wander around and feed on unknown plants and fruits, tried to build a fire.

Tata is not alone. Since the ’90s Eli Lilly, a large drug maker, similarly organizes “failure parties”.

Both these companies and other that follow similar paths have understood Pugsley’s message and that innovation cannot occur without failures.

No failures, no progress.

Success and failure are equally important learning experiences, provided they do not “kill” you or your organization, hence the necessity to “properly measure” the risks before jumping in.

That’s where risk management fits in the context of innovation.

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Category: Consequences, Crisis management, Hazard, Probabilities, Risk management

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