Fail fast, succeed faster

As scientists who are turning an innovation commercial, we are faced with a new way of working. To complete our fibre R&D fast, we need to focus on an agile trial and error method.

EmmiWhen Thomas Edison developed the light bulb, it’s said that he first came up with a 1,000 ways in which the bulb definitely didn’t work. Like modern innovations, Edison too had commercial aspirations, but in those days there was hardly global public pressure to speed things up as in today’s world.

With Spinnova, the haste is there. The textile industry is in urgent need of more sustainable materials, and although not commercial, ours is already out there, almost tangible. This is a positive problem, as it’s a sign of our timing being optimal. We are running as fast as we can to commercialize the fibre and build our pilot factory line to excel in the method first.

No to anything non-core

There are no loose ends we cannot tie, but many small choices and tests are still needed to be 100% sure that this is a concept we can duplicate e.g. with technology licensing. For this, we have adopted an agile trial & error way of working.

We open-mindedly try out new things, discuss our failures, learn from them and move on, whereas as researchers our team has been accustomed to less pressure, enjoying more thorough research and meticulous reporting. As frustrating as it might be for a scientist, anything non-core must go, or at least wait.

No blame nor shame

A trial & error way of working needs to be systematic, and the company culture must support happily failing. This is something us Finns have historically found hard to do. As a rather hierarchic business culture, failure is often associated with blame and shame, vertically running down the organization chart.

Blame or shame shouldn’t even be in the same sentence with failure. Especially when failure is shared, it’s a learning opportunity, and we must learn to be able to succeed. We need to bear in mind that much like with the light bulb, no-one has ever done what we’re doing. When it comes to spinning cellulose into textile fibre without harmful chemicals, we are the best – and only – experts in the world.

Edison too must have felt so. Otherwise he wouldn’t have had the guts to fail 1,000 times before succeeding.