Opinion | A place where you'll never fail to learn | Christina Gerakiteys

I have just returned from the Front End Innovation Conference in Boston. After three days mixing with ‘the tribe’, immersed in innovation, I have the courage to believe anything is possible.

On the final day of the conference, the emcee suggested to attendees that if they weren’t achieving what they believed to be essential in order to live an effective life, they should consider leaving their organisation. I couldn’t agree more and hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Marc Randolph, CEO of Netflix, gave the most honest and open response to the ‘elephant in the room’ question. This is the question that sits in every entrepreneur’s stomach and in every ideation and innovation session.

How do you know if it’s going to work?

The truth is, we never know. Not for sure. But here’s what you need if you want to find out:

  1. Tolerance for risk
  2.  An idea. This idea doesn’t even have to be original. It just has to improve things.  
  3. Confidence to try it out. 

At the beginning of the innovation journey, according to Randolph, “nobody knows anything”.  We heard several times at the conference that all ideas don’t make it. Randolph had one idea that made it and six others that didn’t. Figures quoted throughout the conference suggest the same ratios between success and failure.

If you want to ‘make it’ you have to have great ideas and be prepared to iterate and test and pivot and take a chance and be resilient and be able to get back up when you get knocked down. You have to believe that it’s possible. Just like Jennifer Holland believes in Throat Scope. Just like Justin Hales believes in Camplify.

Randolph’s reaction when Blockbuster Video refused to buy them for the $50million they were in debt for was, “We just have to kick their ass”.  And that’s exactly what Netflix did.

We are doomed to fail because we are immersed in innovation. Whether you are an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur, you are probably solving problems in your head every minute of every day. That means you are more than likely coming up with solutions to those problems every minute of every day. Guaranteed they will not all work or be accepted. Failure. Constant. Failure. 

But with each failure we learn something. And with each learning, we are closer to success. If you don’t give it a go, how will you ever know?

Christina Gerakiteys is the founder of Ideation At Work and facilitates the Rippler Effect Innovation Program