There is a common popular phrase that is used by our culture:

“Failure is NOT an option.”

There are cases when the “Failure is NOT an option” mindset is appropriate.  For example, it is appropriate when very important things have to be completed by a certain time, or when human lives are at stake.  For example, the Apollo 13 NASA Mission to the Moon encountered a life threatening accident which occurred on the spacecraft on the way to the moon.  With limited power and limited oxygen, the team on earth and on the spacecraft successfully followed the “Failure is NOT an option” paradigm and safely brought the three astronauts safely home against the odds.

However, in many other cases, the “Failure is Not an option” mentality would be disastrous.  In those cases:

“Failure IS an option.”

Without being allowed to fail, how can people learn and explore and innovate properly?   Without taking risks and being allowed to fail, how do you come up with some great ideas, and innovations?

There’s a Domino’s Pizza commercial which illustrates the point that you need to experiment and risk failure in order to move ahead and innovate.

At the 3M Corporation, American Chemist Spencer Silver tried creating an adhesive that could be used as a spray or as a surface for bulletin boards so that temporary notices can be posted and removed.  But he ‘failed’ because the adhesive was not strong enough.

Some time later, a colleague at 3M, Arthur Fry, attended a seminar of Spencer Silver.  Arthur Fry realized he could use the adhesive created by Spencer Silver to be a bookmark that could be used in his church choir’s hymnal.

That moment was history, and years later, 3M created the famous Post-It Notes.

Failure is an option when it comes to innovation, because it allows exploration, pushing the boundaries, and allowing the nature of iterative cycles to create better products and systems.

Failure IS an option
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