Thinking Differently About Failure

“We should give failure the attention it deserves. Learning is the only way to turn failure into success”

- Samuel West, Museum of Failure

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Yesterday we learned a new word from Samuel West, Founder and Curator of the Museum of Failure - Atychiphobia.

The Museum of Failure is a collection of interesting innovation failures. The majority of all innovation projects fail and the museum showcases these failures to provide visitors with a fascinating learning experience. The collection consists of a wide variety of failed products and services from around the world. Every item provides unique insight into the risky business of innovation.


Paul and I were really pleased to present alongside Samuel on yesterday's Big Innovation Conversation webinar hosted by the Innovation Agency. We love the word Atychiphobia because it describes something that Bromford Lab is passionate about working against.

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By adopting cultures which make it difficult to acknowledge and learn from things that haven't worked well, organisations reduce their ability to innovate. When Paul first pitched Bromford Lab to the board he said that 70% of the ideas we tested would fail. This was an important acknowledgement to make as the idea of failing, failing fast, and failing safely remains at the heart of our Bromford Lab philosophy today.

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At first glance, there does appear to be a juxtaposition around the ‘getting on and trying things out' culture of the Lab and reducing the risk of things not working out well. However, as Samuel suggests, there is a difference between negligent behaviour which causes catastrophic failure and failure encountered when pushing the boundaries of innovation. We believe that if we embrace failure during the early development of our products, services and policies we can actually reduce the risk of catastrophic failure by testing things out quickly, cheaply and most importantly, safely, in a controlled and measured environment way before we move to pilot, let alone to scale.

By working out loud and sharing our mistakes, through blogs and updates to our Trello board, we can also share our learning and help others working on the same challenges. 

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The Big Innovation Conversation is a series of bite-sized learning opportunities hosted by the Innovation Agency for one hour, every month. You can register your interest in future sessions here.

Between Monday 30th April and Friday 4th May, the Innovation Agency in partnership with AQuA, Health Education England and the North West Leadership Academy will be hosting a week-long Learning from Failure Roadshow in venues across the North West.

We will be running a two-hour interactive workshop on how to learn from failure on Monday 30th April at Aintree Racecourse. You can sign up to attend one of the Learning from Failure Roadshow - Open Sessions here.