Die Into Your Innovations: Fail Enough for the Winners to Emerge


“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” — Ludwig Wittgenstein

Babies are born with the ability to make and hear all the sounds in all the languages of the world. Within every newborn child is the ability to pronounce 150 sounds in about 6,500–7,000 languages. Babies can even babble sounds that adults can no longer say or even hear. The sounds a language uses are called phonemes. Within a few months, babies learn which phonemes belong to the language they are learning and which don’t. They learn this through encouragement to babble words such as “Ma-Ma” and “Da-Da” and do so in a more advanced way as they learn to read. In time, a child discards all the sounds (phonemes) that do not apply to the language they are using. This both saves energy for the child, but also helps the child fit into the tribe to which she belongs.

In essence, a child dies into their language. This is a useful way to think about any process of learning. You “babble/dabble around” until you discard what is not required and you refine the targeted skill. We do that with walking, we do that with learning and we definitely do that with Innovation. We need to die into our innovation, but first we need to search and discover all the possibilities before we zero in on the winning strategy.

Barbell Strategies


“You would need to invest in 250 experiments, to have one strike gold. You have to fail enough for the winners to emerge.” — Alex Osterwalder

Nassim Taleb describes what he calls a barbell strategy in his book “Antifragile”. Taleb posits that we embrace both a conservative and aggressive strategy. The barbell approach is based on a principle called asymmetric risk. It breaks down to an investment strategy that embraces 20% aggressive risk with a 80% conservative approach. This is a useful way to think about innovation work within large organisations where 80% represents business as usual, the core business. The risky 20% represents innovation work, but within the 20% we need to be running many experiments at once.

This week’s guest on the Innovation Show Alex Osterwalder recommends we run 250 concurrent experiments within that 20%. The reality of these 250 bets, most will fail, some may be relatively successful, but the one that works out will represent a huge win, big enough to cover all the losses and save your organisation from disruption. The big win can be your Netflix within your Blockbuster, but the key is that the organisation must be open to losing the majority to discover the winning minority. (Alex also recommends that CEOs of large organisations should devote 40% of their time to the future and 60% to the present. )

Just as we die into our languages, we must die into our innovations, but first we need to search and discover all the possibilities before we zero in on the winning strategy.


Our guest on this week’s Innovation Show is Alex Osterwalder.

7 out of 10 new products cannot deliver on expectations.

Our guest’s book aims to reverse that statistic.

In the tradition of his global bestseller Business Model Generation, this practical guide contains a library of hands-on techniques for rapidly testing new business ideas.

Testing Business Ideas explains how systematically testing business ideas dramatically reduces the risk and increases the likelihood of success for any new venture or business project.

It builds on the internationally popular Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas by integrating Assumptions mapping and other powerful lean startup-style experiments. Testing Business Ideas uses an engaging 4-colour format to:

Increase the success of any venture and decrease the risk of wasting time, money, and resources on bad ideas

Close the knowledge gap between strategy and experimentation/validation.

Identify and test your key business assumptions with the Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas.

The book features practical tips for making major decisions that are not based on intuition and guesses.

Testing Business Ideas shows leaders how to encourage an experimentation mindset within their organisation and make experimentation a continuous, repeatable process.

Have a listen:

Web http://bit.ly/2FwsOJw

Soundcloud https://lnkd.in/gBbTTuF

Spotify http://spoti.fi/2rXnAF4

iTunes https://apple.co/2gFvFbO

Tunein http://bit.ly/2rRwDad

iHeart http://bit.ly/2E4fhfl

More about Alex here:

http://alexosterwalder.com/

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