JESUS took risks and was crucified – to innovate you have to be prepared to fail!

As anyone who has spoken to me in the past few months will know – I keep raving on about the brilliant book, ‘Funky Business’ – written by Riddlerstrale & Nordstrom (see

It was published in 1999 – so it is 10 years old – but a decade later and the messages and gems containedwithin are more relevant than ever.

One message which really resonates is about risk - taking risks, daring to be innovative and creative, being willing to be laughed at - to fail – taking it all on the chin, learning and trying again.

Isn’t that how great marketing works? Let’s face it, behind the majority of successful ventures or products – it is likely that there are tens, if not hundreds, of attempts that went before the success.

Even those success stories that just seem to have ‘happened’ and become an overnight phenomena –(eg: Twitter) will have had a previous format in a previous life that failed, was tweaked, tested, failed again, tweaked, tested – taking years to create a formula that works and brings huge success.

Of course, written 10 years ago – their view of a ‘traditional organisation’ – is one where innovation and creativity is not encouraged or nurtured. Failure carries the corporate equivalent of the death penalty – sending a message throughout the corporate system that failure is punished.

Of course, such a message inhibits innovation.

True innovators are prepared to fail in pursuit of the unknown – it may seem like a great idea – but no one’s certain. However, they go for it any way – risk takers or innovators.

In the book – Riddlerstrale & Nordstrom cite examples such as: Mahatma Gandhi’s India, Henry Ford’s Model T, Man Ray’s photographs, Ruben Rausing’s, TetraPack, the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s album, Akito Mortita’s, Sony Walkman – each of these attributing to their unusual ability to combine new technology, institutions and values in unexpected ways. They took risks!

Some risk their lives in the pursuit of creating something new and different. Again, Riddlerstrale & Nordstrom cite the “great value innovator Jesus took risks and was crucified”. And in our times, Nelson Mandela took risks and was almost killed for it. Alfred Nobel took risks and passed away in solitude. Van Gogh took risks, was ridiculed and committed suicide!

For every successful entrepreneur such as Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Richard Branson etc – there are thousands of others who tried and failed. However, rather than us viewing those that try and fail as ‘failures’ – and ridiculing their attempts – we should celebrate their bravery. After all - we all learn from our mistakes – it’s a basic inherent mechanism of human progress. We learn from our own mistakes and from the mistakes of others.

As the boys in Funky Business put it so succinctly – “If it were not for all the fools trying to do the impossible – over and over again – we would still be living in caves!”

The only way not to fail, is not to try. No failures = no development.

I love the quote by Philosopher Lugwig Wittgenstein: “If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever happen”.

Of course, 10 years on – have things changed that dramatically? Given the advancement of technology – and the innovation this enables – then there are certainly more organisations professing to nurture creativity and innovation – and those that appear to be the leading lights in this arena such as; Google and Microsoft (to name just a couple) – are indeed enjoying great success.

Ask yourself:

  • When was the last time you took a risk?
  • Are you being innovative with your services and product offerings?
  • Are you 'floating in the sea of sameness' - competiting with the competition or innovating?
  • When was the last time you failed - what did you do?  Give up, tweak it and try again?
  • How do you feel about failure?  Negative - or positive?  It's a learning curve after all.
  • What can you do to drive innovation in your business?

I totally concur with the boys at Funky Business – ‘companies must become breeding grounds of risk takers’. And more respect should be given to those that take risks – even if it does result in a failure. Failure happens, that’s a given. Give people trust and it will happen more productively.

And just think of what celebrating risk and failure would do to morale!

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And I highly recommend the book Funky Business, by Ridderstrale and Nordstrom. It’s an excellent read - informed and thought provoking. Visit or their site .

Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative - a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing - covering social media marketing and website planning and website design.