Learning from failures is something I’ve touched upon a few times in the past year or so on this blog. For instance, the open notebook movement in science is attempting to ensure that both the procedure and the results of all medical trials are published, and not just the ones that succeed.
Another nice example is the Art of 3D Print Failure page on Flickr, which aims to document the many ways in which 3D printing goes awry.
This matters because the vast majority of innovation is not so much discovering something truly new and revolutionary as it is building on and recombining what has gone before. Learning what hasn’t worked therefore is just as important as knowing what has.
As Edison famously said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Crowdfunding getting in on the act
So it’s nice to see a new site called Kickended that aims to do just that for the crowdfunding movement. The site, launched out of Venice, aims to showcase the many crowdfunding campaigns that have achieved absolutely no investment whatsoever.
And there are plenty to choose from, with estimates suggesting as many as 10% of all Kickstarter projects get no backing at all.
The project is valuable for a number of reasons. Firstly it reminds us that whilst a minority of success stories obtain the majority of coverage, there are a whole lot that fail. We see this trend with things like entrepreneurialism, with the likes of Mark Zuckerberg lauded whilst the vast majority of those whose start-up fails rather hidden from view.
It also provides a much clearer picture about what works and what doesn’t work in a particular domain. Trial and error is a fundamental part of the innovation process (indeed, our brain is even wired to help us when we first guess at the correct answer!), or as the researchers put it
“The basic idea is that this [guessing-related] activation … affords a richer encoding of the subsequently presented target”
So it’s great to see an increasing number of attempts to showcase the guesses that don’t hit the mark. Hopefully it will provide us all with some clues as to what will make things work the 2nd time around.