Learn From Failure

Tim Brown

"Don't think of it as failure, think of it as designing experiments through
which you’re going to learn."

Failure is an incredibly powerful tool for learning. Designing experiments, prototypes, and interactions and testing them is at the heart of human-centered design. So is an understanding that not all of them are going to work. As we seek to solve big problems, we’re bound to fail. But if we adopt the right mindset, we’ll inevitably learn something from that failure.

Human-centered design starts from a place of not knowing what the solution to a given design challenge might be. Only by listening, thinking, building, and refining our way to an answer do we get something that will work for the people we’re trying to serve. Failure is an inherent part of the process because we’ll just never get it right on our first try. In fact, getting it right on the first try isn’t the point at all. The point is to put something out into the world and then use it to keep learning, keep asking, and keep testing. When human-centered designers get it right, it’s because they got it wrong first.


Tim Brown is the CEO of IDEO and a Board Member of IDEO.org. Tim is a leading voice on the value of human-centered design in business and society and is the author of the book Change by Design. He participates in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and his talks Serious Play and Change by Design appear on TED.com.