The Vulnerability Edge

Oprah Winfrey attributes a lot of her success to her willingness to make mistakes.

“I recognize that what brings me the greatest confidence is a willingness to be vulnerable… It’s knowing that all our mistakes have meaning. And that being open to learning from those mistakes makes the difference between succeeding and getting stuck.”

Those words resonate when it comes to innovation, because at the heart of breakthrough innovation must be a willingness to take risks and be vulnerable.

Thomas Edison famously failed thousands of times on his quest to make the incandescent light bulb. But rather than wallowing in failure, he learned from each attempt. In fact, Edison viewed each failure as a successful way not to make a light bulb before finding his one breakthrough way to do it. He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What Edison and Winfrey have in common is what I call the “vulnerability edge.” You see, while it may sound oxymoronic, the reality is that it takes courage to be vulnerable. But in being vulnerable, we can get closer to innovation.

The Vulnerability Edge in Action

When brainstorming ideas, for example, we may feel vulnerable expressing our thoughts before a group of people. In the process, sharing what’s on our minds puts us at risk of receiving others’ praise, indifference, or scrutiny.

As scary as this prospect may seem, the time is now to embrace taking such risks during brainstorming sessions, along with the perceived success, mediocrity or failure that can come with it.

Ridding yourself of idea-sharing fear frees you to fully express yourself. In the process, you’ll gain the “vulnerability edge” you require to come up with more and better ideas.

Expanding on these additional ideas can lead to innovation that gives your company the competitive edge. So the next time you’re tempted to remain silent during a brainstorming session, remember Edison and Winfrey. “Put yourself out there” and share your ideas. Open yourself up for failure or ridicule. The breakthrough ideas that stem from your efforts will far outweigh the risks.

Nancy Francis
Principal noo F/X
nancy-small Steve Xenakis
Principal noo F/X

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