innovation, creativity, corporate America

Why the Elimination of Error Should be Eliminated.

I want to talk about something that has been bothering me for a few years now.

The ruthless elimination of error in corporate America.

This quest has been one of the most sought after business management objectives throughout much of the last century.

I even worked at an ad agency that put a quality management/error reporting process in place that was meant to eliminate mistakes across the entire agency, from creative to production.

While errors were indeed reduced, innovation also died. It was murdered. In cold blood.

If your goal is to kill innovation, then all you need to do is foster an environment where the fear of failure, aversion to unpredictability and preoccupation with maintaining the status quo at all costs rule the day.

Innovation will dissolve faster than Dracula in daylight.

And it did. Along with my soul as this agency’s creative director.

Innovation doesn’t follow fixed process rules. Creativity is usually messy and ambiguous. Errors are integral to the creative process that leads to true innovation.

If you want to foster innovation in your organization, then you must embrace error, not fear it or seek to stamp out even the hint of it, as this ad agency tried to do.

I’m not saying that your organization should run on chaos and anarchy or that all the safety mechanisms on your machines be ignored. That would just be silly.

But there is a middle ground.

It lies somewhere between logic and intuition. Somewhere between algorithms and experiments.

This middle ground, where paradox is embraced, where creative tension and the freedom to fail is braved and encouraged, is where the smart, innovative organizations live and thrive.

An innovative organization that allows and encourages its people to fail and fall, will find themselves almost always falling forward.