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The Right Kind of Wrong Can Future Proof Us

future proof tech Nov 06, 2023

It is tempting in turbulent times to double down on our demand for excellence; also more likely for things to go wrong. We need more opportunities, not fewer, to engage in intelligent failures.
-- Amy Edmondson, paraphrased from her recent talk at Thinkers50


Walking into the light filled studio at Canary Wharf in London, I was met by Francesca and Ryan of Cute Circuit. Wearable tech pioneers for over a decade, this couple have lived in a “what if…” world that has taken them from dressing Katy Perry for the Met Gala and to developing a sound shirt that shows tangible medical benefits for dementia patients in care homes. 

Lucky for me, they also dressed me for Thinkers50, with a programmable clutch and tuxedo featuring my very own mood lighting on the lapels. 

The Thinkers50 conference, featuring the best in management thinking from around the world, featured ways that all of us can nudge ourselves into a more productive embrace of the future.

One session from Professor Amy Edmondson introduced thinking from her latest book, The Right Kind of Wrong. As someone who follows risk at board level and innovation for clients, it was easy to understand the idea that some failures should be avoided (basic preventable risk and complex multipart risk whereby no part alone would sink the ship but together could become a “perfect storm”).

“Intelligent” failure - thoughtful forays into new territories that we can learn from - is a risk to be embraced. 

What are key aspects of approaching it? 

  1. Focus on something that is a new problem to solve, a way to make things better and go beyond business as usual (like my wearable tech friends).
  2. Clearly articulate your goals and key assumptions.
  3. Keep the cost of failure as small as possible.
  4. Have a clear plan to test it.

How are you embracing what’s next and what intelligent failures have you learned from lately?

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