Einstein’s Path to Productivity: Create a Culture Where it’s OK to Fail

Successful creative people—whether a designer, musician, marketing strategist, artist, inventor, film director or even Go Game producer—aren’t afraid to fail. It’s not that they like failing per se. It’s just that trying new things, which is de rigueur for innovative people, leads to frequent failure.

Case in point: Albert Einstein made a lot of mistakes. But clearly, missteps didn’t slow him down. He published roughly 300 journal articles and, holds the record as one of history’s most bad-ass geniuses of all time.

Einstein’s IQ of 160 didn’t hurt, but it’s his process that is also noteworthy. Dr. Benay Dara-Abrams grew up down the street from Einstein and, having no idea the physicist was famous at the time, did puzzles with him as a kid. In a piece titled “What I Learned from Einstein: The Importance of Culture,” published in The Huffington Post, Dara-Abrams writes:

We often tried approaches that didn’t work out, but that was fine with Einstein. He encouraged experimentation and wasn’t critical of wrong turns. In fact, he didn’t consider any of the paths we tried to be wrong. That was a major difference between my experience with Einstein and my experience with many other adults. There were no right or wrong answers, there were just experiments, with curiosity leading the way, and that was the way I learned at Einstein’s house.

The no-penalties-for-failure atmosphere at Einstein’s house enabled Dara-Abrams to experience complete absorption in his tasks, a mental state called the flow state or being in the zone. It’s a highly productive state of mind that can only happen in the right situations. And given Einstein’s great body of work, it’s not surprising he knew the secret to productivity: Create a culture where people are unafraid to fail.

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