The most important lesson to those seeking to innovate is to learn how to fail fearlessly. Yes — I said — fail fearlessly.

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Doug Hall.

Doug Hall started his “invention” career at age 12 with the creation of a learn to juggle kit that he designed and marketed. Following a degree in Chemical Engineering, he took the path less traveled and joined the marketing department at Procter & Gamble where he rose to the rank of Master Marketing Inventor shipping 9 innovations in 12 months. The secret to his success was the application of the system thinking of Dr. W. Edwards Deming to Innovation. For 33 years he’s owned the Eureka! Ranch, the Innovation Engineering Institute and the Brain Brew craft whiskey distillery.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

Since I was little I’ve LOVED inventing. I think this comes from my great grandfather and grandmother who embraced and encouraged my curiosity. My system thinking approach was inspired by my father’s work with Dr. Deming.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

The creation of whiskey is the most interesting. We have discovered a system for creating whiskey with the smoothness of an 18 year old whiskey in 40 minutes.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?

I make mistakes regularly not just when I first started. In fact, if I’m not making mistakes I get frustrated with myself. Not failing means I’m not pushing the edges of my thinking., The most recent mistake I’ve made is for a Eureka! Ranch client I invented a new pizza oven system that literally torched a pizza in 20 seconds. It was exciting — but not very tasty.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

The whiskey is amazing. I’m also working on three cannabis projects in three different categories (In Canada) that hold amazing potential. They are like nothing else that has ever been done before.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer?

Writing a lot of horrible sentences. I am a horrible writer. But a decent editor :).

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Sitting in the great room at the Eureka! Ranch are 10 top executives from one of the world’s largest companies. They need help accelerating the discovery and development of disruptive LEAP innovations.

I start with a simple question: “What happens to the value of an innovation as it goes through your development system? Does the value (sales forecast for the project) go up, down, or stay the same?” There is an awkward silence. Then the chief technology officer speaks, “I know the answer. We did a study and found that when ideas come out of development they are worth a little less than half what they were worth when they went into development.”

“So your system for innovation development,” I responded with a smile, “is actually a system for managing the decline of ideas. The system is like hospice. It’s palliative care. You are managing the decline of ideas.”

There is a nervous laugh in the room as I set the vision for what is possible. “Now imagine if instead of declining by 50%, your system made them grow by 28%. That’s what Innovation Engineering is delivering during commercialization.”

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

The most important lesson to those seeking to innovate is to learn how to fail fearlessly.

Yes — I said — fail fearlessly.

It is only by learning to love failure that you can achieve great things.

It’s as fundamental as Dr. Deming’s Theory Of Knowledge — PLAN, DO, STUDY, ACT.

It is how we learn anything. It’s how we learn to ride a bike — we try, we fail, we learn, we try again. It’s how we learn to read, to write and to invent amazing solutions to the challenges the world faces.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it?

The greatest mistake I ever made in writing books was with my third book — Meaningful Marketing Instead of writing to the masses — I tried to write a book that would be highly respected by business professionals. The result was a technically impressive book that was very, very boring. For my next book I decided to ignore the experts and simply write the book I would want to read. That book Jump Start Your Business Brain is my all time best seller. It was also named by 800 CEO READ as one of the top 100 business books of all time.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from?

I am a very eclectic reader. I feel that the more diversity of styles and content I read the more I learn.

How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?

After the failure of my third book I stopped thinking this way. I simply write things that I enjoy. My rule is if when I’m editing it I’m inspired or laughing (appropriately) I figure others might find enjoyment or value from the book.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?

Just start writing. Write, publish on the internet. Then write some more. Don’t worry — be happy with what you write.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Our mission for the Eureka! Ranch is to: “Change the world through systems that enable innovation by everyone, everywhere, every day.” We do this through college courses on campuses, through executive education courses, advanced internet tools and inventing projects.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Go to sign up for my Driving Eureka! newsletter and to download a free one hour audio book summary of the book.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!


  • Sara Connell

    Bestselling Author & Writing Coach

    Sara Connell is an author and writing coach with a private practice in Chicago. She has appeared in Oprah, Good Morning America, NPR, The View and Katie Couric. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tri-Quarterly, Good Housekeeping, Parenting, IO Literary Journal, and Psychobabble. Her first book Bringing In Finn was nominated for ELLE magazine Book of the Year.