August 03, 2015
John MulderJohn Mulder

Successful Failure

Apollo 13 was on a path to imminent failure. And yet, as it turns out, it provided us with a major lesson in success.

Leaders often abhor failure. But, really, failure is nothing to hate or be afraid of. By definition, failure is simply not meeting expectations. Nothing more. And based on that definition, we all fail. Repeatedly.

In April of 1970, for nearly a week, the United States Space Program focused it’s complete attention on saving Apollo 13. Now, although the crew aboard Apollo 13 did indeed fail in its mission to walk on the moon, the mission was still successful in a major way: Creative problem solving.

The engineers at NASA demonstrated – almost quintessentially – that the group is stronger than the individual. It’s easy for one person to solve a problem when there is a clear-cut answer. But it’s when the solution is more abstract, that’s when groups of people are needed.

NASA looked at the problem, fashioned a solution, and enacted it. When the best minds at NASA were faced with a seemingly impossible task, they joined together, each bringing a different take on the problem, and were able to solve it. They successfully brought three men – three men who were almost lost in space - home in a limping lunar craft.

Advertising agencies work that way. We combine our efforts – collectively brainstorming - to figure out the best way to sell your product or service. We craft the deliverables and enact the plan. In recent years, we’ve begun to arm ourselves with statistics and analytics, but that serves more to reassure ourselves that what we created is actually working. It doesn’t create the idea itself.

Perhaps with a team of creative minds, your failing, limping brand can be resurrected. Because failure can be overcome.

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