Singing is one of those skills that is difficult to evaluate in ourselves. We rely on feedback from others to determine how we’re doing. (Think of American Idol.) The personal capacity to innovate is a lot like that. It’s difficult to gain an accurate sense of our own creativity or analytical skills or insight. How often have you seen people either discount their creativity or exaggerate it? It’s quite common…and not just in singing competitions.
There’s a prevalent and long-perpetuated myth about innovators, that they are persistent; they don’t give up. Renowned innovators like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison have even said it of themselves, crediting their success in part on their persistence. But it’s at best a poor choice of words and at worst a fundamental misunderstanding of what innovation entails, even by some of its best practitioners.
One of the principal challenges any innovator faces is persuading others of the value of an idea. It is a frequent source of frustration and angst, and an absolutely essential innovation skill.
Being willing to fail, to be wrong, is one of the key characteristics of an innovator. You don’t have to like failure, and you certainly don’t want to go looking for it. But you have to be willing to accept it and move on in order to find the rare gems you’re seeking.
It’s easy for anyone to look back on an idea that has either succeeded or failed and draw conclusions about whether or not it was a good idea to pursue. The harder question is of course, “How does one know before an idea has succeeded or failed whether or not it’s worth pursuing?”
With innovation, the odds favor the gambler. The longer you play, the more likely you are to win. Each calculated risk that fails, if carefully evaluated and used to learn, brings us closer to a successful solution, by teaching us what won’t work and hinting at what does. It’s those who stop gambling, who fail to experiment long enough and often enough, who give up too soon, who lose.