We often hear that we need to encourage and support failure in order to foster creativity and innovation: “Fail fast, fail forward!” Curiously, I have found that many people have a hard time failing, even when that is their goal. We are so trained to get it right, that we have a hard time getting it wrong. As always, help can be found in our own backyard.
Mutations in nature are aberrations in an organism’s genetic code (DNA) that result in one or more distinctly different characteristics expressed in the phenotype. Mutations are constantly being generated in nature. The vast majority result in failure; however, the tiny percentages that succeed become the super heroes of resilience, sustainability, and evolution. These ‘mistakes’ are what have allowed life to survive and sustain and evolve through all of the radical changes that earth has experienced over the past 4 billion years since life first appeared. Inspired by mutations, we can learn to generate the many wild ideas – and failures — from which our most creative innovations will emerge.
How do we generate mutations? As in nature, we can make seemingly strange changes –aberrations — to our existing ideas or designs. This process can be facilitated by using a creativity tool called SCAMPER, which is a mnemonic that stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse. You can read how to use SCAMPER here.
Most of your ideas will likely end as failures, but perhaps a few of your inspired mutations will become the super heroes of your company’s resilience, sustainability, and evolution.