Different Shades of Success

Perform a search on “failure and creativity” and before you even finish typing you’ll see titles like:

  • Embracing Creative Failure | Forbes
  • The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery | Amazon
  • For Leaders, Creativity and Failure Go Hand In Hand | Library Journal
  • The No. 1 Enemy of Creativity: Fear of Failure | HBR
  • Designers Must Learn to Embrace Failure | Time.com
  • Famous Failures | The Creativity Post

And the list goes on and on.

But really. Do we have to be so dramatic?

While there are times when you set out to do something and and it really doesn’t turn out right at all, are your only options success and failure?

Did Daft Punk think of themselves as failures during the 18 months or so that it took for them to record the final version of “Get Lucky?”

After listening to Daft Punk’s demo of what would become “Get Lucky”, Rodgers asked that all of the elements except the drum track be muted so that he could create a suitable guitar part; he recalled that he experimented until the duo were visibly pleased. Once he completed his contribution, Daft Punk re-recorded the bass part with Nathan East to fit Rodgers’ performance. Rodgers further elaborated that, “Everybody else wound up re-playing to me”. Mixer and engineer Mick Guzauski recalled that the rhythm guitar fit easily into the production: “I experimented with balancing and other positioning, and working other stuff around it. He didn’t have to be processed – Nile just sounded great the way he is.”

Get Lucky (Daft Punk Song) | Wikipedia

Did Steve Jobs feel as if he had failed when he

“hit the pause button” and went back to the drawing board because he felt it (the product) wasn’t perfect?

The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs | HBR OnPoint | Winter 2013

Jobs did it with the movie Toy Story, the iPhone and the iPad, for example.

Does Samsung view it as a failure when they release products to see what consumers like and then make changes based on the results?

“Nobody had any idea what the right screen size was, so Samsung made all of them and saw which one worked,” says Benedict Evans, a researcher at Enders Analysis.

Producing a range of similar devices in various sizes to see which sells best is one of those high-cost undertakings most companies shy away from. But Samsung’s ability to produce display, memory, processors, and other high-tech parts gives it a flexibility competitors can’t touch. “There was this orthodoxy 10 years ago that vertical integration was passé,” says Tero Kuittinen, an analyst at Alekstra, a mobile-phone consultancy. “Then it turned out that the only two companies that took it seriously [Samsung and Apple] took over the whole handset industry.”

Apple’s approach is fewer models, each of them exquisitely designed. Samsung’s is try everything, and fast. “When we released the Galaxy S III, our research showed that, for some people in some markets, the handset was too big,” says DJ Lee. “So we were able to create the same phone with a 4-inch screen, and we called it the Galaxy S III mini.”

How Samsung Became the World’s No. 1 Smartphone Maker | Bloomberg Businessweek

I think the answer is no. It’s just part of the process. The products that come up in between the beginning and the finial version might not get an A+ but they don’t necessarily get an F either.

So maybe instead of thinking in terms of Pass/Fail, we should think in terms of shades or levels of success, like most of your grades probably were in school — remember A+, A, A-, B+, B, B- and so on? For sure, if an “F” comes up, don’t give up, but maybe in addition to embracing failure, we should embrace the creative process.