We’ve all learned about folks who are great at innovation — professional athletes, professional musicians, and, of course, entrepreneurs. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.
The Beatles, Frank Sinatra. All of them very good at their craft and refining it by trying things out all the time.
According to Anders Ericsson, the great athletes and musicians have reached a level of true expertise through 10,000 hours of practice. Not through your typical routine but through “deliberate practice” – where you set clear goals and get constant and immediate feedback. It prevents them from getting stuck repeating already mastered skills (the “autonomous stage”) and keeps them in a state of creativity, experimenting with new and innovative strategies.
As discussed in Joshua Foer’s book Moonwalking With Einstein, Ericsson has found that the best way to stay out of the autonomous stage is to practice failing. Fail and learn from your mistakes. Now fail again and learn more.
Think about a superior figure skater. They don’t spend all their time doing the same routine. They’re trying their quadruple lutz jump over and over again and failing a lot. In this process of experimentation and failure, the truly innovative emerges.
So innovation is easy and it’s hard. It’s hard because you have to reach to where you will fail at some things. You fail, you learn. You fail again until that innovation arises. You have to want this type of failure.
Innovation is easy because you have certain tools and practices available to you. As I talked about in a previous blog, there is the keystone habit. One core habit your firm does that you can rally around. It creates all other good habits.
In another innovation blog, I talked about mentoring and decision rights. Put this in place in your organization, allow your people to take ownership and you will bring out the best in them. Allow them to fail, encourage them to fail. Reach, fail, learn and reach again. That is where they will find their innovations.
The whole innovation process is really about, believe it or not, a lot of structure, a lot of practice, and a lot of failing. We can see it from all those master professionals out there.
To be very good at your business, to be able to innovate all the time, and create constant growth, you must support and encourage practiced failing. Like innovation, it’s a different kind of mind set, a different way of embracing your creative side. It allows you to play.
Play a lot at whatever you love doing and fail at it. It will make you and your business a lot better.
So until next time, enjoy.
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