Failure-Driven Innovation (2012)

Dr. Olivier Berthod / Dr. Allen Alexander / Dr. Sebastian Kunert / Prof. Ph. D. Torsten Oliver Salge / Dr. Anne L. Washington

When it comes to research and teaching on innovation, case selection suffers from a success bias. Academia loves to tell stories of breakthrough innovations to practitioners and focuses, in the classroom, on successful organizations and best-performers. This project thus unpacks the zone of obscurity that has emerged around the notions of failure and innovation. We address the following questions: Why do we rely so much on success-stories? Do we foster misconceptions about the nature of innovation? Can we augment our knowledge from success stories through failure stories? And how can we make this knowledge visible and accessible for all?

Focusing on failures with large-scale consequences (either for the organization as such or for the broader society, i.e. negative and/or undesirable outcomes in form of an unexpected and substantial gap between performance aspirations and actual performance), the objective of this project is to research, unpack and disseminate a set of in depth-case studies that would:

1) make failure experiences visible for innovation management teaching

2) make visible the mechanisms that link failure experiences to innovation (of others)

3) make visible the facilitating role of leadership in this process

Failures, understood here as critical events with large-scale consequences (as defined above) has been partly overlooked by researchers to date, despite its relevance. However, it is widely recognized that organizations learn primarily from problems and that failures motivate leaders to challenge institutionalized assumptions. We therefore believe failure experiences to be an important trigger for innovation. That said, we suggest that the process that leads from failure to innovation, has remained by and large invisible to researchers as well as to the classroom.

Publication Failure-Driven Innovation: access it here


Find more information about the project: Failure-Driven Innovation on the projects' website.