Is the "Right to experiment" a fundamental right?

All of us talk about innovation, few talk about the right to experiment or right to innovate.

When Vinay Dabholkar invited me to panel discussion on “Managing Big Bets” at the innovation workshop he was conducting, i jumped at the opportunity. It was a great opportunity to learn more. More importantly to catch up with Vinay, from whom i learn some thing new every time. This time i learnt about the “Pea Plant Experiment”.

In the 1910, Dadasaheb Phalke wanted to make a movie. The first Indian movie. He was obsessed with making a movie. But there were a few small issues. He had no money, no actors, no audience. Sounds familiar?

Thats when he did the “pea plant experiment”.

He filmed a pea plant growing frame by frame, over 45 days and made a 2 minute short film. This might not seem like a big deal now, but imagine seeing this for the very first time. Everyone was sold. Actors, Financiers, and audience. Watch this amazing clip for more on this fascinating story.

Vinay and I spoke about few of our own “pea plant experiements”. Most important learning for me was the question he posed to me – do our team members have the right to experiment? Do we encourage experimentation. Do we reward experimentation, irrespective of outcome? Do we celebrate experimentation. Do we institutionalise experimentation?

In the initial days of our startup, our favourite quote was “forgiveness is easier to ask than permission”. As you grow, i think some of that experimentation dies. And permission becomes more important. To preserve the soul of a startup, no matter how big you grow, the right to experiment has to remain a fundamental right.

Please do share your “pea plant experiments”


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