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Taking risks and celebrating failure make innovation bloom


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In his book, “The War of Art”, author Steven Pressfield suggests that we have fears but often don’t recognize what the real fear is. “The Master Fear, the Mother of all Fears,” he says, is the “Fear that we will succeed.”


Fear is part of human nature. It causes you to avoid potentially harmful situations, paralyzes you from trying, creates self-doubt, stalls progress… However, when researcher Silvia da Costa, from the University of Basque Country, examined the factors favoring innovation in organizations, she found that 67% of people in challenging situations demonstrate above-average creativity in their performance. In contrast, only 33% of those in easy roles will.


Innovation means being challenged and taking risks. Too often, it also means failing. Despite the countless examples of great successes built upon failure, we live in a culture of perfection in which the notion of failure is still regarded as unacceptable. Being able to celebrate failure as well as success is a needed step to build a culture where risk-taking is tolerated and where innovation can bloom.


That’s what Ganesh Ayyar, CEO of Mphasis, a major IT services company, advocates in a podcast hosted by Knowledge @Wharton on the digital transformation required to thrive in the new age. “We need to learn the art of celebrating failures and the lessons from those failures, so that people push the boundaries, try new things, experiment and build an environment full of innovation,” she says.


Act. Take risks. Fail. And remember that your biggest fear might not be a fear of failure but a fear that you will succeed.