The price of failure

A great talk by Cory Doctorow last night – he spoke for an hour but packed in more words than most people would manage in two hours, and certainly more insights.

One phrase I liked:

“Innovation happens when people can afford to fail”

This is exactly right. I’ve said a related thing before in a talk about innovation: “Redundancy pay is a wonderful thing”. For many people, especially young people, it’s the first time they get a chance to raise their heads, look around and think about options beyond the next month’s pay cheque.

Most people will not, or cannot, risk the roof over their family’s heads, or their career prospects, or their employees’ livelihoods, if that’s the price of experimenting and failing. The thing Silicon Valley got right is the understanding that a high proportion of new ideas will fail, and that’s OK, because enough of them won’t. If investors looking at proposals, or employers looking at CVs, or governments thinking about policy, understand and allow failure (in moderation, of course), then great things can happen!

Many thanks to Neil Davidson of Red Gate Software for the invitation to the talk.


Yes an excellent talk and good to see over 250 people there. I really should do a post about it as well!

Necessity is the mother of all innovation springs to mind too.

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