Lessons on failure and innovation from the Spaceport Cornwall satellite launch

In this blog article we look at the failed launch of a satellite from Spaceport Cornwall and explain why failure is actually an important part of the innovation process.

Mark Probert

Chief Strategy Officer (CSO)
·3 min read (729 words)
Spaceport Cornwall and a plane from Virgin Galactic

Recently Spaceport Cornwall attempted a remarkable first mission — to send a satellite into space from the UK. A first. Unfortunately, the mission failed. In the immediate aftermath it was a big disappointment (especially, I’m sure, to everyone involved). But it soon dawned on me that failure is actually an important part of any innovation, and any project worth trying. 

After all, SpaceX had a number of rockets explode before they finally got it right, and now they’re at the forefront of space flight. And I’m sure that the teams at Virgin Galactic and Spaceport Cornwall will already be working on solving problems and getting ready for attempt number two. 

This whole saga has led me to thinking about the nature of failure in innovation in more general terms. We know from talking to innovators (many of such conversations you can find in our podcast) that failure is not a necessary evil in the innovation process, it’s actually a valuable tool. 

Why is that? Let’s take a look.

The relationship between innovation and failure

Innovation is the process of creating something new or improving upon existing ideas. It is a vital aspect of any industry, as it drives progress and helps to keep companies competitive. However, innovation is not always a smooth process, and failure is an inevitable part of it. In fact, failure is an important aspect of innovation for several reasons.

Iteration and progress through failure

First and foremost, failure allows for the identification and correction of mistakes. When an innovation fails, it is an opportunity to learn from the failure and improve upon the idea. By identifying the flaws in a failed innovation, one can make adjustments and try again, ultimately leading to a more successful outcome. Failure also allows for experimentation and exploration. When an innovation fails, it opens up new possibilities and allows for the exploration of alternative ideas. This can lead to unexpected breakthroughs and advancements.

Risk management and perseverance

On top of that, failure teaches valuable lessons about risk management and perseverance. When an innovation fails, it’s important to analyse the reasons for the failure and make adjustments to the plan. This is an important skill for any entrepreneur, as it allows them to make better decisions about which risks to take in the future. Failure also gives a budding entrepreneur a valuable lesson perseverance. You’d be hard pressed to find any successful business founder that hasn’t had at least one failed project under their belt, and carried on trying until they got it right. We can’t overstate the importance of not giving up on an idea after the first failure but to continue to try and improve upon it. Even if it means pivoting to another idea at some point. 

Learning when to stop

There’s also such a thing as sticking with an idea for too long. Another important lesson that failure can give you is that if you’re consistently failing at getting one project or idea off the ground, you can take the learnings from that and apply it to something new. You don’t have to doggedly stick with one idea.

What we’ve learned

Failure is clearly such an important aspect of innovation. It allows for the identification and correction of mistakes, experimentation and exploration, and teaches valuable lessons about risk management and perseverance. Without the ability to fail, progress would be slowed and innovation would be stifled. 

Instead of fearing failure, embrace it. If you’re failing at a project or idea, instead of thinking that it’s time to give up, consider that it’s likely that you’re on the right track, taking steps towards success in the innovation process.

In time, Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Galactic will successfully launch a satellite from the UK, and this recent failure will be just a step on the way to that monumental moment.

Want to learn more about how to innovate?

Here at Newicon, innovation is core to our process and our ethos in general. In fact, we created our very own product to help others innovate more successfully — the innovation kit. 

The kit is essentially an innovation workshop in a (digital) box. With it you get everything you need to run a successful one day workshop to either generate new ideas or progress ideas you already have. 

You can find out more about the innovation kit here, including some free previews.


I'm Mark Probert

Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) at Newicon

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