Archetypes 2018-05-17T12:41:18+01:00

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 16 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 junk

Quitting as the best option. The intention to complete something you started is quite human. After all we set ourselves a goal. Sometimes perverse stimuli do not encourage stopping, for example when spending all of your budget. Sayings like ‘Quitting is a verb I do not know’, ‘Always keep trying!’, ‘Stick to you promises’, illustrates the human habit to never give up.

Examples of The junk

The Canyon

We are often confronted with the same sort of situations. To deal with that efficiency we develop routine actions, habits and best practices. We develop skills individually or as a team member. They become an integral part of our brain or turn into (un)written rules in organization or society.

Examples of The Canyon

The Black Swan

We cannot foresee everything. So unplanned situations can occur which turn our schedule upside down. We can anticipate on unpredictable events by creating a plan B to cover failures. Nasser Talib has written an interesting book, The Black Swan, about unforeseen developments with huge consequences.

Examples of The Black Swan

The Farmer Girl

It often happens that divergent outcome at first sight looks like a failure. But on second thoughts the result can be of added value. The favorite expression of the dutch scientist (and Nobel Prize winner) Pek van Andel was: ‘You’re looking for a needle in a haystack but you end up with the beautiful farmers daughter!’.

Examples of The Farmer Girl

The Elephant

Sometimes you need to combine different perspectives and observations to get a clear picture of the system and it’s mechanisms. This is called emergence. The principal is nicely illustrated in parable of the elephant and six blindfolded people. The people are asked to touch the elephant and describe what they think it is. One of them says a snake (trunk), the second one says a wall (the elephant side), the third one says a tree (leg), the forth one says a spear (tusk), the fifth a robe (tale) and the last one says a fan (ear). No one describes any part of the elephant, but by exchanging their observations the elephant appears.

Examples of The Elephant

The diver of Acapulco

What is the right moment for a certain action? A good metaphor for timing are the famous divers of Acapulco. They dive, mostly for a big audience, from great heights into the water. They wait for the right moment when the wave pushes up the water. It is easy to imagine what happens when their timing is wrong. The same goes for introducing new products or services on the market. Sometimes people have the feeling that they have a fantastic innovative idea, but find out that they are not the first. On the other hand, it also can be too early for a certain idea to succeed. Sometimes the world is not ready for innovational ideas. In other words: too early is not in time either.

Examples of The diver of Acapulco

The empty chair

Not all relevant people become involved. Consent and cooperation of all relevant parties are needed for a chance to succeed. When one of the key persons is not involved in the preparation or implementation there is a big chance that he will not be convinced of the necessity due to a lack of involvement. This can also lead to unwillingness to take part.

Examples of The empty chair

The skin of the bear

But sustainable success means that the approach has to work properly also in the long term, on a bigger scale and under different circumstances. The step from proof of concept to proof of business turns out to be to immense or even too much for many entrepreneurs. The usual saying: don't sell the skin till you have caught the bear.

Examples of The skin of the bear

The Winner Takes it All

The world and innovation in particular benefit from diversity and competition. But sometimes there is only room for one dominant player. Think of the standards as a necessary basis for individual developments. ABBA turned this into a song: 'the winner takes it all, the loser standing small.'

Examples of The Winner Takes it All

The Einstein-point

In our complex world we need to be aware that the image we have created contains enough information to represent reality. On the other hand we have to keep things simple. Otherwise you get stuck. Einstein already said once: 'We have to keep things as simple as possible but not more simple than that."

Examples of The Einstein-point

The light bulb

Progress is usually not a linear process. That’s why we have to experiment and find out the best approach or course. We not always have all necessary information or the situation can be too complex to see all relevant factors or correlations. Than it comes to trial and error.

Examples of The light bulb

The Banana peel

In complex situations we see many players interacting. It is not always as easy to conclude what changes on a local level will do to the system as a whole. We are used to focus on issues of big or direct interest and pay less attention to the triggers of events which turn into phenomena on a system level. You only need to follow the daily news to see how often people literally or metaphorically stumble over relatively small or trivial subjects.

Examples of The Banana peel

The Honduras bridge

The world is not just complex but also dynamic and changing. Sometimes we try to solve a problem. But as soon as we have manage to do so, the problem turns out to have changed or a new problem turns up. Thereby it's solution has become worthless. An interesting example is the construction of the bridge of Honduras. The bridge was built to withstand the worst hurricanes. Under hurricane Mitch the bridge proved to be of excellent quality. Unfortunately, after the flooding, the loop of the river had moved a few hundred meters. The bridge no longer crosses the river.

Examples of The Honduras bridge

The wrong wallet

In complex situations it's hard to inventory the advantages and the disadvantages. It often happens that a change is beneficial to the system as a whole, but it's a disadvantage to certain persons or parties in the system. When it comes to money it can be necessary to look for a collective compensation strategy without one party paying for the other.

Examples of The wrong wallet

The right cerebral hemisphere

It is often hard enough to predict the mechanism of the system. It becomes even more difficult when the individual behavior of the players in the system cannot be deducted to known facts. Unpredictable and/or inconsistent behavior adds to the rate of unpredictability. According to the theories who associate the left cerebral hemisphere to relational processes and the right to emotional and sensitive processes.

Examples of The right cerebral hemisphere

General with no army

The necessary means need to be available to reach a success. It can be a matter of money, the right instruments, knowledge, time, partners, clients, infrastructure etc. Whoever provides the means must commit himself sufficiently to the person who implements the activities.

Examples of General with no army

Why failure is an option


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Instituut voor Briljante mislukkingen