Product Strategy and Innovation Blog

Is Innovation Failure Good For Success?


One of my potential customers sent me an article about Rita Gunther McGrath’s newly released Discovery-Driven Growth. In it, McGrath argues that failure should not only be tolerated – it should be welcomed and managed. To back this up, she quotes A.G. Lafley, the CEO of Procter & Gamble. He famously said that unless P&G experiences a certain amount of innovation failure, not enough innovation is happening.

I’ve heard his assertion repeated several times now, recently at an MIT-sponsored conference in Austria. There, P&G stated that they plan to have a success rate of 50 percent with their innovation activities, but not more. The reasoning is that if they budget more than 50 percent success rates as a goal, their people would stop being creative as they may fear failure.

I took this as a perfect starting point to discuss ODI philosophy. Isn’t our job to reduce risk for our clients? Shouldn’t organizations be armed with information that helps them make good innovation decisions? If there’s a method that would improve success rates, wouldn’t you want to know more?

I think we need to sit down and have a coffee with Mr. Lafley on a Friday morning. He may be thankful.

Martin Pattera

Martin has over a decade of innovation experience. Prior to Strategyn he held key positions at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and Mayr-Meinhof Karton. Martin is a lecturer in the executive MBA program focused on entrepreneurship and innovation at the Vienna University of Technology and at Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. He holds an MBA from the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration.

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