Archetypes 2017-10-17T14:19:19+00:00

We have seen many failures come through. Often, there are ‘universal lessons’ to find within those failures; patterns or learned lessons that exceed a specific experience which can be applied in many other innovation projects. Based on these patterns, we have developed 20 archetypes that help you identify and learn from failures. The archetypes also have the function to classify. All our cases are classified under one or more archetypes to make it easy to find comparable examples.

The Addiction

How to stop a process? People and organisations can be addicted to their projects. In hind side it’s easy to concluded that a project has dragged on too long. How long you carry on with it?

Examples of The Addiction

The Canyon

Rivers which have been flowing for millions of years, carve tracks and later canyons. It’s hard to find alternative roots. Human beings encounter same sort of process, and that is how they develop knowledge, but is also leads to habits and routine behaviour. These are called protocols and procedures. Although it looks efficient, it can also cause a blind eye.

Examples of The Canyon

The Black Swan

A tunnel vision prevents you for looking around. A project plan gives direction and serves as a seatbelt, but it can also cause a neglect for unexpected developments. An alert and creative person however might be able to notice an useful unexpected effect.

Examples of The Black Swan

The Black Cat

You’re do your utmost and murphy turns up. Thinks like illness, bad weather, political upheaval are beyond of our grip. Murphy strikes again and everything what can go wrong will go wrong.

Examples of The Black Cat

The Farmer Girl

When you’re working on something you can run into side-effects, which might happen to be extremely positive. You have to be openminded. The Dutch scientist Pek van Andel defined once as followed: When looking for a needle in a haystack, you end up with the farmer’s daughter.

Examples of The Farmer Girl

The Elephant

There is a story about a blindfolded elephant which is fumbled by six people. They all give the most unexpected answers to the question: what did you touch? A tree, a wall, a snake etc... Only when they exchanged their experiences the elephant turns up. Many complicated issues only become clear when you look at them from different perspectives. You have to combine them to make use of the diversity.

Examples of The Elephant


Many innovations fail due to bad timing. It could be a matter of too late or too early, but it’s just not the right moment. So there is nothing wrong with the idea itself, but the question is when the world is ready for it or if somebody already turned up with the same sort of idea.

Examples of Timing

The Silos

Because knowledge is hided in different sources and not sufficiently shared, plans can fail because the essential information was not at hand. Solutions which could be raised in cooperation are neglected because you work on it without deliberate.

Examples of The Silos

The world goes around

Sometimes you think you’re totally up to date although reality has already changed. With the increasing complexity and speed of today’s society there is a risk that new development can weaken your reality. So it’s essential to check your assumptions and keep an open eye for new developments in and outside your working area.

Examples of The world goes around

The empty chair

In theory we all know the essential element of collecting keypersons, but in reality you not always succeed in involving the right stakeholders at the right time.

Examples of The empty chair

Don't count your chickens before they hatch

There is often a warm welcome for a project plan or concept which has received the greenlight or when the pilot project shows positive first results. Applause in between is fine as long as you keep an eye on the final results you want to reach.

Examples of Don't count your chickens before they hatch

The right exit

All projects are a matter of making priorities and choices. The choice between keeping the same track of taking side-track can be of great importance to further success or failure. It’s all about making the right choice and finding the balance between focus on your goal and adaptivity.

Examples of The right exit


The scientist Alexander van Humboldt did a lot of research by combining different scientific disciplines in de late 18th and early 19th century. His holistic thinking showed how natural phenomena are interwind and how this interdependency works.

Examples of Humboldt


Research at the university of Rotterdam showed that investment and innovation gives maximum gains when you invest three times as much in social innovation as in technology. In other words you have to invest in people and learn organisations how to deal with new technology.

Examples of NT+OO=EOO

The Winner Takes it All

Although the stage is huge in some fields only a few actors have a role to play. This is particular true for standards. You have red oceans with competitions and blue oceans with hardly any competition.

Examples of The Winner Takes it All


Complexity is a container concept. Complexity in society and organisations creates ever more unpredictable by-effects and long term-consequences. You cannot control the complexity, you have to learn to deal with it.

Examples of Spaghetti

The Einstein

People want thinks as complete as possible, but on the other hand it has to be transparent. This leads to complex organisations and bureaucracy on the one hand and to the tendency towards simplification on the other hand. Because of that are essential elements of the stories sometimes lost.

Examples of The Einstein

The Experiment

How to guarantee a success? Because you cannot know all the elements in advance we need experiments to test our expectations and try out new solutions. The result of an experiment can be positive giving you the greenlight, but it often leads to a change of plans or even a shutdown of the experiment. No problem at all, it underlines the necessity of experimenting and learning.

Examples of The Experiment

The Banana peel

Good preparation and controlled operation are no guarantee for a successful project. Sometimes you have to deal with unexpected, initially small and unimportant matters, which have disastrous consequences. It’s often hard to identify those risks and anticipate. The project is doomed to fail..

Examples of The Banana peel

Why failure is an option


OR CALL Paul Iske +31 6 54 62 61 60 / Bas Ruyssenaars +31 6 14 21 33 47

Instituut voor Briljante mislukkingen

Instituut voor Briljante mislukkingen