Along the way we’ve spent much time ruminating on the issue of failure. At various points in time we may have noted that people learn more from failure than from success. At other points in time we may have highlighted the idea that failure only teaches us how to fail, while success teaches us how to succeed. So what matters more, success or failure? As yet the jury is possibly still out on that, but we recently learned about the Institute for Brilliant Failure. Well, it’s in Amsterdam so the actual name is, “Instituut voor Briljante Mislukkingen.” Good luck with that. In any case, failures can be either brilliant or not. A brilliant failure meets certain criteria whereas a not very brilliant failure is a result of unnecessary errors, poor preparation and silly mistakes. A brilliant failure results in lessons learned. But come to think of it, one would think a non-brilliant failure does essentially the same thing.
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Columbus discovery of America is considered a brilliant failure because he planned well and executed well, left nothing to chance and still failed to find a faster trade route to the Far East. But in discovering America, he inspired others with his failure. Brilliant! A more recent example involves Heineken launching a low alcohol beer called “Buckler.” The beer failed because of a notable singer publicly mocking the idea of a low alcohol beer, among other things. Lessons were learned. The Institute’s mission “is to stimulate entrepreneurial thinking and behavior (in the broadest sense of the word) by encouraging people to develop new ideas and enabling innovators to turn ideas into reality. However, these efforts could be wasted in a culture where failure is seen as unacceptable and few are prepared to take the necessary risk. The Institute of Brilliant Failures aims to change this culture.” They say, “It’s better to aim too high and fail than to aim too low and succeed.” So much for aiming to win the lottery – PhD in Rocket Science, here we come.