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Why failure is a key step in creative processes

Camila Valencia
Business
8 min read
Why failure is a key step in creative processes

Learning to use failure as a tool to enhance creative processes and avoiding getting stuck in a state of frustration while creating the ‘perfect idea’, is essential to accelerate our professional and personal growth.

I understood this after I allowed the fear of failure to condition my work for several years because I preferred to ‘play it safe’, without taking risks, and my results started to become really predictable. However, once I was okay with that fear, my self-confidence exponentially increased, transforming the way I navigate my creativity and ideas.

To begin to understand the concept of ‘failure’ we have to understand what ‘perfection’ means and understand that nothing made by a human is perfect. Any product, service, or process will always have room for improvement, especially creative processes, where all the variables that affect the outcome are subjective and changeable/malleable. 

There is never an ideally perfect state and pretending that we can reach it can quickly lead us to a state of frustration instead. That’s how the fear of failure paralyzes us, and it will not allow us to take that first essential step to begin any task.

Have you ever wondered why, when starting any project, it is difficult to decide where and how to begin? 

Most traditional work cultures, and even the traditional education model, have programmed us to avoid failure at all costs. In reality, what we were never told is that, in order to discover the ‘idea that works’, we first have to discover all the ideas that don’t. 

They also did not teach us that failure can be measured and it is possible to use it as a controlled exploration tool to help us to keep track of the steps we must follow to achieve the best result. However, we must keep in mind that, like everything, taking risks has its pros and cons. These should be analyzed in order to approach and maintain a balance when using failure as a tool in the execution of our tasks. Here are some cons of avoiding failure and the pros of embracing it:

Cons of avoiding failure:

Avoiding mistakes can bring thousands of consequences in all aspects of our lives. Here I will mention some that are focused on the work environment, specifically in the creative design processes:

Pros of embracing failure:

On the other hand, assuming failure as a natural part of a design process can bring many benefits:

Everything, in theory, seems ideal, but it can be much more complicated when we face a real project with variables that cause pressure and stress (deadlines, stakeholders, budget, etc.). That’s why I’ll give you some practical tips that can help you turn failure into your ally: 

There is no perfect way to solve our design problems and we definitely have to make mistakes many times in order to achieve the results we are expecting. For that, the best thing we can do is to turn failure into our best friend and include it in our thinking model to get incredible and unexpected results.

Normalizing failure can become the key factor to feeling comfortable iterating, adapting, and facing unexpected changes, things that will be constant and unpredictable in any project. Although we have been taught to be afraid of mistakes and changing this habit is not easy, if we start applying these tips in our daily tasks as designers, we will not only contribute to a more efficient and collaborative design culture, but we will also boost our self-confidence to reach our best potential. 

I hope that any part of this text can help you as a designer (or person) by making you feel more comfortable navigating your creativity and ideas by reminding you that failure is part of the creative processes.

 

You can learn more about design processes here!

Camila Valencia
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