Trial & Error: What Thomas Edison Can Teach Businesses Today

Many Failures, One Success

Here’s a statistic that really brings home the interrelationship between failure and innovation — and further, the value of learning to fail quickly. Studies have shown it can take upwards of 3,000 ideas to produce one product or service that goes on to be a commercial success.

“New” Coke: A Case Study in Fast Failure

Here’s another example that many of us are familiar with. Some 30 years ago, Coca-Cola made what a rash of headlines now refer to as its single biggest blunder in more than 100 years — the introduction of the so-called “new” Coke. Essentially a change in the basic Coke formula, the new Coke had a smoother, sweeter taste — similar to Diet Coke, but sweetened with corn syrup. Market researchers and pollsters were confident that the new version was a winner.

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GE’s FastWorks: A Successful Case Study

Introduced by Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt, the program is designed to encourage pervasive, ongoing innovation with an emphasis on quick pivots and adjustments once a project is deemed impractical or unworkable.

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