When we fail to fail, we fail. Creativity suffers.

In his recent talk before the Ad Age Small Agency Conference, Dan Wieden, co-founder of Wieden & Kennedy in Portland, OR, stressed the importance of failure, or, rather, the freedom to fail.

Talking about his agency’s mantra, “fail harder,” Mr. Wieden referenced the significance of one making three collossal mistakes before moving on to more fruitful creativity. He mentioned how mistakes are too often seen as marks of stupidity, instead of building blocks of knowledge.

I know, not everyone feels they have the flexibility to make ONE mistake, let alone three or more. That’s a scary thought!

Consistent barriers seem to be erected that prevent us from experiencing failure. Some are self-imposed, while others are insinuated by organizations and companies with which we work or perform services. Time to fail is rarely included in the timeline for producing most projects.

Everyone wants results now, not three days from now (at least, that’s how it feels at times). Yet, one must be diligent in expressing doubt that a hurried or tight timeline would include time to fail.

In today’s fast-paced business climate, failure doesn’t seem to be tolerated. “We don’t have time to fail,” seems to be the business mantra. Ah, therein lies the rub.

When it comes to creativity, those of us practicing it everyday don’t seem to be allowed to think about failure. Yes, I admit it – I did not achieve perfection on the first draft of my _________ (fill in the blank with design, article, illustration, photograph or whatever).

I “failed.”

190px-The_Scream

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”

That’s hogwash (technical term)!

Companies like Nike, Apple, Pixar and even others much smaller in size, openly embrace failure and incorporate it into their systems.

Those who don’t engage creativity everyday, seem to think that it’s some commodity one can easily switch on or off at will. This attitude does a disservice to those involved in practicing the craft as well as for whom they are practicing it.

It’s unrealistic to ignore failure. It’s unrealistic not to schedule time for its possible appearance. It’s reality that we need to learn from the process to improve upon what we just created. We need to make time to do that, and then move on.

The other reality: Will anybody really care?

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