In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 13, 2014

Celebrating failed attempts to fly

By Elizabeth Harty

They thought they were going to just another department meeting. So the old story goes. But as members of the Mayo Medical Ventures team gathered in the Siebens Building, they realized this meeting was going to be anything but typical. Rick Colvin, then executive director of Mayo Medical Ventures, and Richard Brubaker, M.D., medical director, replaced their suit coats with T-shirts with an eagle on the front. They then informed the group they had been gathered to celebrate failure. (We'd have paid to see the reaction.)

EmbraceFailureBlogPost720Colvin highlighted a number of Mayo Medical Ventures projects that had started out well enough but ultimately failed to come to fruition … for whatever reason. The teams involved were then presented with what was dubbed the Queasy Eagle Award. This was some time ago, but Suzanne Leaf-Brock, Pubic Affairs, still calls it one of the greatest meetings she's ever been to. "I’ve never been to a meeting where people felt so uplifted and truly recognized the power of trying new things," she says.

The point, of course, was that failure in the name of innovation wasn't really failure at all. And while the Queasy Eagle Award has since flown the coop, the idea of embracing failure proudly lives on. In fact, our friends at the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation just last week co-hosted a Twitter chat with the folks from the Edison Awards on this very subject. A few of our favorite tweets are below:

"Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something." Frederick Smith #innovationchat

#Innovation requires going beyond the fear of failure. If you're afraid, you could be on the verge of success. #Innovationchat 

We see failure as a necessary component to innovation. You can't learn without risk and trial. #innovationchat

And in a video interview about the challenges of innovation, Mayo's Diane A. Klein says that last tweet is the whole point. And she shares an example. "At Mayo Clinic Arizona, they were having a hard time with people scheduling follow-up appointments," she says. "I sat behind the scheduling desk for four hours, and we couldn't get one patient to do a follow-up phone call." What they learned was that the problem wasn't that patients didn't want to schedule follow-up appointments. It was because they couldn't -- either because their physician hadn't yet requested the appointment or because it was still too far out. So even though the solution was a bust, Klein says they "learned a lot about the way scheduling works and what the patients are up against." Which might lead to a new and better solution. (Or another "learning opportunity.")

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Tags: Innovation

“Queasy Eagle” sounds like a great name for a band!

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