Getting it wrong in the right way

What a wonderful idea! Too bad, my _____, my _____ or my _____ would never go for it.

I bet you can fill in the blanks.

Why are some organizations so creative while others aren't? Guest posting at Nina Simon's Museum 2.0 blog, Julie Bowen, VP of Experience and Engagement at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, points out that creative organizations value leaders and people who can "associate, observe, question, experiment and network."

If that resonates with you, you're a lot like the people - speakers and the buyers of Festival Passes alike - who appear year after year at the IdeaFestival.

Not all mistakes are created equal though. Some organizations make mistakes because the future profitable service or product appeared in a form they didn't expect or recognize. They missed the faint signal in the noise or waived off the wall flower who suddenly spoke up. We've all been in places where the email never stops. Send enough of those, or holds enough meetings, and one can never be wrong. Document demands often take the place of originality. It's the fearful that sly dial.

You've probably been on the receiving end of these tactics. Bowen, quoting Sir Ken Robinson, explains the underlying reality.

If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never do anything original.

The most important ingredient for any organization that builds creativity into its DNA is an element of faith because the truth is that nobody knows now if that interesting idea will work. Such organizations understand that a priori demands for proof are also another way of saying, "don't you dare." Instead, creative organizations, as Peter Sims pointed out last year, make little bets. They wait, watch and cultivate the ones that pay off.

More importantly, when they're wrong, they're wrong in the right way.

Without a culture of risk taking, of making little bets, even the successes have a downside. No one is certain why a product or service hit while others folded. But if an organization supports the curious within, whether it's structured time off during the day or just one wise manager's encouragement to try something new, being wrong can be a productive exercise, because, like the experimenter or the scientist, even the misses ultimately point toward the truth.  


Image of Peter Sims: Geoff Oliver Bugbee