An inventor’s path is chorused with groans, riddled with fist-banging and punctuated by head scratches. Stumbling upon the next great invention in an “ah-ha!” moment is a myth. It is only by learning from mistakes that progress is made.
It’s time to redefine the meaning of the word “failure.” On the road to invention, failures are just problems that have yet to be solved.
Faced with a problem, have an idea (first step towards the solution).
It’s a never-ending process that is enormously rewarding, and endlessly frustrating.
When it comes to failure, remember Edison who famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Those 10,000 detours resulted in the Dictaphone, mimeograph, stock ticker, storage battery, carbon transmitter and his joint invention of the light bulb. In the end, 10,000 flops fade into insignificance alongside Edison’s 1,093 patents.
An environment that help inventors to focus on what they do best — making things and making mistakes.
The ability to learn from mistakes — trial and error — is a valuable skill we learn early on. Recent studies show that encouraging children to learn new things on their own fosters creativity. Direct instruction leads to children being less curious and less likely to discover new things.
Unfortunately, society doesn’t always look kindly on failure. Punishing mistakes doesn’t lead to better solutions or faster results. It stifles invention.
Hands-on, creative thinking through design and engineering is a way to avoid prescriptive learning.
Teaching to standards and rote learning can keep children from creative thinking and generating new ideas.
But is this the best measure? Rather than rigidly assessing knowledge retention through NCLB, we should be inspiring children to think creatively. Education should be about learning, not box-ticking.
By fostering an environment where failure is embraced, even those of us far from our student days have the freedom to make mistakes — and learn from them still. No one is going to get it right the first time. Instead of being punished for mistakes along the way, learn from them. I fail constantly. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.