Failing to ultimately succeed

Failing to ultimately succeed

The CEO of Edwards Lifesciences writes about fostering an innovation culture by intentionally embracing failure. In the late 1950s, an engineer named Miles “Lowell” Edwards decided he wanted to develop an artificial heart. He presented the concept to Dr Albert Starr, a young surgeon at the University of Oregon Medical School, who thought the idea was too complex. Instead, Dr Starr encouraged Mr Edwards to focus first on developing an artificial heart valve. This important partnership between an engineer and physician which has become a hallmark of Edwards’ innovation process led to the first Starr-Edwards heart valve being designed, developed, tested and successfully placed in a patient, within just two years. And it led to the formation of Edwards Laboratories, which set up shop in California and grew into today’s global company, Edwards Lifesciences. In retrospect, as with later Edwards innovations that emerged over the next six decades, history has a way of making the innovation process seem continuous and linear.

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Innovation is crucial to the growth and success of any organization, and intentionally embracing failure can foster a culture of innovation. Edwards Lifesciences, a global medical technology company, is an example of this. The partnership between an engineer and a physician was a critical component of their innovation process, allowing for a collaborative and iterative approach to product development. This approach led to the development of groundbreaking medical devices, including the first artificial heart valve, and ultimately to the growth of the company. By recognizing the value of failure as a learning opportunity, Edwards Lifesciences created a culture of experimentation and risk-taking, serving as a model for other organizations looking to foster a culture of innovation.

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