Interesting, I have had many products and ideas not be successful but I never considered them failures because I learned something and applied that learning to a more successful project. My current boss has a saying I love “It’s OK to make mistakes, lets just make different mistakes next time”, basically driving a culture that innovates, launches, studies, reassess, and launches again.
One of the best side affects of giving talks is it forces you to think about and articulate how you think and what you do. Maybe some people do that more automatically, but frequently a question produces some latent insight for me like the one you gained in your story.
A related story, after 8 of R&D and development on a program market conditions changes and I we decided to cancel the project because we felt to launch would be to knowingly make a big mistake. We proactively canceled and decided to study why we didn’t see this market condition coming. One of the engineers on the project pulled me aside and said he felt very disheartened and didn’t want to work on anything as innovative because he just “wasted” so much time. After I recovered from my disbelief in his statement, I asked him: Did you learn anything? … yes. Do you think you will apply the learnings on the very next project? … yes. Do you still think it was a “waste of time”… he changed his answer.
Its a hard thing to do, to disengage yourself from the singular idea and instead see the flow of work over a period of years as a single project that results in continuous product launches, and some serious stumbles, and hopefully some serious successes.
We recently launched another product, a first for our company. The sales success was off the charts but an issue quickly revealed itself in the real world we did not encounter. Lots of working nights, weekends, long talks with China and within days we had a roadmap for staged fixes and within a few weeks shipping fixes… if you are going to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.
Circling back to the topic, my biggest issue with design thinking is that I feel it over intellectualizes and academicizes (word?) what should be a very hands on process. Instead of locking themselves in a room doing some mental exercises, the leadership team should be sleeves up and knee deep in it, making, learning and breaking.