06 June 2021

Season 2, Episode 20. On Failure & Innovation with Jim Van Over - Season 2

On this episode, my guest, Jim Van Over, and I talk about the necessity of failure for innovation. We discuss how human innovation inherently coexists with failure, the ways organizations and leadership can approach failure for growth, and how Elon Musk gamifies innovation.    


A futurist and technologist, Jim is a proud member of the Chief Innovation Office for

ServiceNow. In his role, Jim challenges the status quo of the world of work by encouraging new

ways of thinking for ServiceNow’s partners, clients, and customers. As a hands-on practitioner, he is passionate about always learning, never standing still, and helping people. In addition, he

is a founding member of Work Forward, a movement dedicated to putting the future of work in

the present. His previous career was as a virtual reality producer for such companies as Fox,

Google, Warner Bros., and Syncopy Inc. His hobbies include building PCs, cooking, and wine


Connect with my guest:

You can follow Jim on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Clubhouse @jimvanover

To learn more about ServiceNow, visit their website at https://www.servicenow.com/


[01:03] Jim and Natalie on Work Forward   

  • Work Forward is a group of like minded professionals that explore and experiment to help identify tools and practices that actually make work better. They believe that a better work-world exists for all. Through the ethical and moral applications of the right technologies, people, and places, Work Forward can fulfill everyone's right to be inspired and happy to work.
  • Natialie explains how she sees Work Forward breaking down all the bureaucracy and distraction that's in the way of workers doing a really good job getting work done.

[03:07] The Intersection of Innovation and Failure        

  • Jim and Natalie discuss working environments where people are afraid to fail in contrast with working environments where failure is minorly penalized
    • Human innovation inherently coexists with failure
    • Incentivizing an organization to innovate in a way that is still constructive and still adheres to the risks, growth, and values of an organization
  • How to celebrate failure well 
    • The ROI of innovation is in the learning of it

[07:04] Setting Up Learning Through Failure in Organizations

  • Get better at learning; practicing innovation leads to a better understanding of how to learn from the act of doing
  • Allow for failure and allowing for innovation go hand in hand
  • Having leadership that understands the inherent value of the learnings through innovation, rather than perceiving them as failures

[12:58]  Shifting The Way Organizations and Leaders Think About Failure

  • Organizations can't create net new until they create the change in how they think about failure
    • Failure vs Mistakes: mistakes happen when you're not paying attention, a failure happens because you had a hypothesis and after following the steps that you believe would get you to your hypothesis, you didn't land there


[16:38] Small Penalties for Failure     

  • While there is no one size fits all formula for organizations, Jim talks about how understanding your organization and understanding what motivates your people is the first step towards truly figuring out how to get the most out of your team 
  • How Elon Musk has gamified innovation through incentivisation
  • Leverage gamification through small penalties to give the push that your team needs to be the best versions of themselves.

[19:17] Final Words

  • Jim’s advice for listeners to be better learners
    • Growing faster and better than those around you will only occur if you are taking action, failing fast, and often.
  • Connect with Jim!



Key Quotes:


“ Taking innovation at its core definition, that is to say, the introduction of something new, human innovation inherently coexists with failure.” -  Jim Van Over


“Innovation without failure-celebration is not a growth mindset.” -  Jim Van Over


“I typically find that leaders that don't allow for failure also don't allow for innovation.” - Natalie Born


“I see every conversation as an opportunity to become a trusted subject matter

expert, to share my opinions on the future of work and technology by reimagining digital and human evolution through storytelling and thought leadership. Using real-world experience as a co-innovator, I challenge C-level executives to reimagine old perceptions, realize their transformation vision, and achieve success. While my conversations are always tailored to the needs of those involved, regular topics include the connected human, digital evolution, artificial intelligence, hyper-automation, consumerization of the enterprise, and the future of work.” - Jim Van Over

Resources Mentioned:


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