Small scale private failure, large scale public success

My attention was drawn to Nordstrom’s Innovation Lab that combines Design Thinking, Lean Startup, agile and lean thinking methodologies (

I was particularly taken by their articulation of what they do. To quote:

What we build:

  • A new product every week or two.
  • Validated learning: we build experiments, not applications. We pass the working ones on to other teams.
  • Risky projects: we expect 80% to fail.
  • High leverage: we expect that 20% that succeed to have a huge impact.

Creating a safe environment to fail is the surest way to significant success

Having seen so many so-called innovative business transformation initiatives stagger to deliver anything of any consequence over an outrageously long time period, I was particularly taken by the speed, fail rate and impact they expect their projects to have.

Most large-scale transformation initiatives are paralysed by the fear of failure, stymied by the scale of the ambition and the “once in a generation” opportunity that is presented to those involved. The innovation lab concept creates an environment where failure is not only accepted, but expected. This creates a very different dynamic – one in which ideas can take flight and real transformative ideas can take seed.

Why don’t you set up an innovation lab?

I am intrigued by how few organisations (certainly in Australia where I am based) appear to have established a similar initiative.

At Meld we have created similar environments for specific projects to enable the free and unencumbered exploration of ideas, but we have never seen or been asked to get involved with something like this that is part of business-as-usual activity.

If you’re interested in having a chat about what would be involved, please get in touch –

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