Storytelling is essential to innovation. If we’re going to rewrite the future, we need to give people a glimpse in advance. But the best innovation story is the one we’re most reluctant to tell:
The One That Got Away.
Of course we don’t like telling that story, it’s about failure. But resist the urge to bury it. Tell that story. Because the unit of progress in innovation is learning, and we learn the most from our failures. In 1998 I started a company to deliver toothpaste and toilet paper to your door, on schedule. That failed. Then we shifted to an Internet-connected mailbox. That failed. I tell those two stories a lot. Because I learned a lot – and I’ve earned a lot based on those lessons! When I tell those stories, others learn, too.
In fact, the best book I’ll never write will be called “The One That Got Away: Innovation Failures and What We Learned.” If only the brave would come forward.
What about you? Do you tell your “the one that got away stories”? How do people respond when you do? Maybe we can turn it into a good book.