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“EVERYONE ALWAYS SAYS THAT EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER AND THAT YOU LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES. BUT IF YOU’RE REALLY SMART, YOU LEARN FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S MISTAKES. THAT’S A LOT LESS PAINFUL.” - STEPHEN WEBBER, BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Very wise words. Because any successful person will tell you that failure is always part of their road to the winner’s circle. Failing in and of itself, although frustrating, shouldn’t keep you from future success. But failing again and again at the same thing might. Mary Cantwell of Atlanta’s Mount Vernon Presbyterian School explains, “With students, starting in elementary school, we try to instill one important idea among others: ‘Fail Up.’ Through Design Thinking, they know that failure is part of the package. Not every idea will work but hopefully through failure, another idea will be sparked and the path to the solution will continue.”

Brian DeCubellis of MTV Scratch (the network’s in-house creative agency) puts forth a view that is a bit more business-hardened: “I don’t like calling them failures, because I hate to fail. I do love to explore all options, though, including the 99% that are not necessarily the best option. All throughout the creative process you have to go south sometimes to find out what north really is.” As a manager, allowing employees the freedom to stumble a bit – at least to a certain point – without retribution can be important in maximizing creativity and worker morale. Here are some examples of this outlook in action:

ARNE VAN OOSTEROM “Innovation is all about venturing into the unknown, and making mistakes. If you can’t make mistakes, you can’t learn anything new. So it’s all about the culture at any given company, no matter what country it’s in. Are you scared to make a mistake? Can you be fired at any time if you do?”

CHRISTINA JENKINS “Last year I taught a 5-day ‘Disaster Class’ to high school students, about solving natural disasters around the world before they actually become disasters. Halfway through, the kids were all extremely frustrated, they were stuck in the creative process. And I was happy, because that’s the reality of the world. You do become stuck and frustrated. I think it’s important for young people to be comfortable with making mistakes. There doesn’t have to be forward movement every second. And a lot of times that’s not allowed in classrooms where correct answers are expected. In the class, some kids never resolved things 100% and that was OK. I value the process more than the end product.”


In Managing Creativity we pick the brains of some very unique creative leaders from all walks of life – CEOs, filmmakers, educators, music p...