Failing Like Edison
Constrains, willingness to fail, willingness to take big risks and rapid iteration are absolutely fundamental to innovation.
Peter H. Diamandis is the Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, which leads the world in designing and launching large incentive prizes to drive radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. Best known for the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private spaceflight, the Foundation is now launching prizes in Exploration, Life Sciences, Energy, and Education. Diamandis is also the co-Founder & Executive Chairman of the Singularity University, a Silicon Valley based institution teaching graduates and executives about exponentially growing technologies and their potential to address humanity's grand challenges.
Along with fellow Big Think expert Steven Kotler, Diamandis is co-author of the New York Times best selling hardcover book Abundance—The Future Is Better Than You Think which was #2 on the NYTimes List and #1 on Amazon. Their latest book is titled Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World.
Diamandis has founded or co-founded many of the leading entrepreneurial companies in this sector including Zero Gravity Corporation, the Rocket Racing League and Space Adventures. He also counsels the world's top enterprises on how to utilize exponential technologies and incentivized innovation to dramatically accelerate their business objectives. Dr. Diamandis attended MIT where he received degrees in molecular genetics and aerospace engineering, as well as Harvard Medical School where he received his M.D. Diamandis' personal motto is: "The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself!"
Innovation and breakthroughs require taking tremendous risk. In society today, most progress is made incrementally. If people aren't given as much time and money as they need, they don't take risks. It's only when you force people with constraints. You're constrained by the amount of the time you have, amount of money you have, the resources you have, and you're trying to make something work. If you constrain them the right way two options are before you. Either they fail or they succeed and because they were constrained when they succeed they've had to create something new.
That new result or discovery within the constraints is a breakthrough, it's an innovation. So at the X PRIZE Foundation we put these large ambitious prizes out there with this clear measurable objective goal and we say the first person to do it wins and that time pressure and the amount of prize money, which really constrains to some people how much money they'll spend, drives them to create a breakthrough in innovation.
The day before something was truly a breakthrough it's a crazy idea. So the question is where in our society do we allow crazy ideas to come from? Large corporations and governments shy away from crazy ideas because they're afraid of the ridicule. On the other hand, one of my trustees at the X PRIZE Foundation, Ratan Tata, the Chairman of Tata Industries, gave out a prize every year for the best failure that then taught them something.
If you think about the fact that Edison had hundreds of failures on his way to creating the elements inside a light bulb, that's another way to think about it. So constrains, willingness to fail, willingness to take big risks and rapid iteration are absolutely fundamental to innovation.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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