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Designing for Failure (Stanford)

PI: Michael Bernstein


Design and creation tools today strive to amplify our creative strengths and encourage successful outcomes. However, in many ways it is not success but experiences with failure that lead to mastery. While experts have developed strategies for engaging in risky experiments and recovering from mistakes, novices lack the experience and mindset needed to use failures as opportunities for growth. Current tools intimidate the unsure novice, as they are designed around showcasing success or critiquing finished work, rather than providing safe spaces for experimentation. To better engage with novices around failure, we propose flipping the value of failure in creativity tools from something to avoid into something to actively seek and design for. To do this, we demonstrate how today’s creative activities that are success-oriented may be inverted to derive a new set of activities where controlled failure, and recovery from failure, could prevent people from giving up permanently. We propose tools that help novices recover gracefully from face threat and failure, catching them when they are at risk and then paving the way to keep going.