Brilliant Failures


My ‘Laws of Failure’ focused on the dynamics of embracing failure, good or bad. But Prof.Dr. Paul Iske’s ‘Brilliant Failures’ (thanks Adrian) provides a set of criteria to provide the most basic segmentation of failure – good ones and bad.

A brilliant failure meets the following four criteria:

  1. The innovator strives with good intentions (i.e. not at the expense of others or society at large) to achieve their goal
  2. The innovator does all they can to avoid unnecessary errors: failure through poor preparation or silly mistakes is not a brilliant failure!
  3. The innovator does not achieve their original goal; if the actual result was not intended, but has value for the individual or society then we can officially classify it as a brilliant failure!
  4. The innovator learnt something from their failure; even if they did not learn what they intended they learnt what not to do; above all their experiences, courage and perseverance may well inspire others

Iske provides the useful example of the ‘discovery’ of America by Columbus to illustrate their application…

  1. Columbus’s goal was to find a faster trade route to the Far East
  2. The Italian explorer left nothing to chance. He organized – finally in Spain – sponsorship for his voyage and made sure he had the best ships and crew available at that time
  3. Columbus’s mission was essentially a failure; he did not achieve his original goal of making the Far East markets more accessible. Instead of reaching the Far East he discovered an unknown continent
  4. The ‘discovery’ of America was not only a fascinating experience for Columbus, but also inspired countless others. A brilliant failure that is one of the most well know ‘success’ stories of all time! And there are many more…

Brilliant Failures offers an alternative set of acid tests for failure spectra to complement Kastelle’s impact based hierarchy, and Edmonson’s causation driven model, but their website offers yet another device for gradation – democracy. Its website offers a forum for crowd sourcing all manners of ‘Brilliant Failures’ that then are ranked according to ‘votes’…

Brillian Failures - highest rating