When I was launching my career post-business school, I had a mentor who was constantly pushing me to “test and learn.” He was not a fan of 200-page business plans, extended market research, surveys, focus groups and other actions that would postpone implementation. He argued that the best research is just to do it. Be scrappy, throw the idea out there and watch what happens.
We all have ideas, and varying amounts of creativity, but without action, it doesn’t amount to anything. Innovation, on the other hand, requires action. Innovation is basically the ability to fail quickly, learn from mistakes and reinvent.
When I started Stacy Blackman Consulting in 2001, MBA admissions consulting didn’t really exist. There were several people who informed me that they had been inspired by that exact same idea. This made sense; it wasn’t an outlandish concept and we could clearly see the need. The issue is that most people had the idea but did not try it. They did not test. They did not fail. They did not learn. True innovation requires action and failure, and the failure part may not be a lot of fun.
My husband has a plaque on his desk that asks, ‘What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” Sometimes I contemplate that. What would I do? If I were 100% certain it would succeed…what crazy thing would I try? And since I know that failure is always part of the equation, what am I really afraid of? Why don’t I just try? Often an attempt does not go down the intended path. But it takes you somewhere, and that is part of the adventure.
Jeff Bezos is known for saying, “If you double the number of experiments you do per year you’re going to double your inventiveness.” Maybe it’s not that hard to be more innovative. Just try more things. Test. Learn. Test again. Progress. Wisdom. Success.