Free to Fail

blog May 23, 2024

By Natalie Born

In the face of real challenges and pressures, the word “innovation” can seem frivolous to most leaders and pastors. The year 2020, marked by global upheaval, put this fear into real perspective. While it is a natural inclination for some to yearn to return to what is most familiar “just get us back to the way things were,” others saw it as an opportunity to forge into new territories, try new things and reach unreached people.

What about you? What was your response during the upheaval? How did you react when the very ground underneath you was shaking?

These questions may shape deeply how you embrace innovation. Consider this: When a consistently utilized program no longer yields the desired outcomes, do you intensify your efforts, ignoring what the numbers might be indicating? Or, do you interpret this as a pivotal opportunity to halt, pray, reflect and seek guidance on whether a change is required?

For leaders in any field, be it in large corporations, small businesses, non-profits or churches, recognizing the need for innovation is critical. Based on my experiences consulting with organizations of all shapes and sizes, I offer three pieces of advice to those navigating the intricacies of introducing innovation within their organizations.


Creating a safe space for innovation is essential. This means cultivating an environment where team members feel secure in voicing their ideas, no matter how unconventional they may seem. It’s about shifting the organizational culture from one that fears change to one that welcomes it as a necessary component of growth. When organizations hit right around the 15-year mark, they find themselves slower to change and less agile. Introducing innovation infuses new life into the veins of the organization and gives people a sense of excitement, empowerment and hope.

A safe environment encourages experimentation, knowing that not every initiative will succeed but recognizing that each attempt is a valuable step toward finding viable new solutions.


Closely tied to creating a safe space is the need to embrace failure as part of the innovation process. The fear of failure is a significant barrier to trying new things. It’s vital to understand that innovation is inherently risky, and not all ideas will bear fruit. This is where leaders can give ideas guardrails and allow them enough understanding to see how their ideas fair without letting them completely crash and burn. Give them a safe environment to tell you what didn’t work and why. Each failure provides insights and lessons that pave the way for future success.

We must ensure we ask important questions like:

  • What did you learn?
  • How will you apply that knowledge?
  • What would need to be true for this to work next time?

By redefining failure as a learning opportunity rather than a setback, organizations can demystify the process of innovation and encourage more frequent and fearless exploration of new ideas.


Innovation should not be seen as a burdensome task or a survival strategy but as an exciting opportunity to break the mold and make a significant impact. Injecting fun into the process can dramatically increase engagement and creativity among team members. This could mean hosting brainstorming sessions in less formal settings, encouraging the use of gamification techniques to generate ideas, or celebrating the process of innovation itself, regardless of the outcome. When people enjoy what they do, they’re more likely to think outside the box and bring their whole selves to work.

The key lies in how leaders approach innovation—whether they view it as a threat to be avoided or a journey to be enjoyed. Choose the latter and you will see increased engagement, fruitful discoveries and growth to the bottom line.

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