Innovation and “Value Creation” in Scrum is Born out of Failure and Neuroscience


Creativity and innovation in application development are, in many respects, a conditioned response to a problem or challenge. Contradicting what most of us learned in school about collaborative brainstorming, respectfully accommodating other’s thoughts is less effective than honest feedback. We need to be challenged and critiqued in order to inspect and adapt and learn the innovation response.

Recent research into brain function studying how people respond to criticism finds that people fall into two categories – Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset. Fixed Mindset individuals believe their intelligence and talent is fixed; that it cannot be changed. Growth Mindset individuals, however, believe that their talents can be developed through hard work.

What neuroscientists have discovered is that our brain pays special attention when we fail, but that there is a measurable difference in brain activity between the fixed and growth mindsets. Electroencephalogram (EEG) tests record what is known as a Pe signal when individuals experience failure. The Pe signals in response to failure are three times greater in Growth Mindset individuals than in Fixed Mindset individuals.

The Fixed Mindset individuals tend to ignore failure signals whereas the Growth Mindset individuals paid special attention to them. Research performed at West Point that showed grit, the determination to improve and learn in the face of failure, as the most significant determining factor of success in cadets.

Insulating ourselves from failures, whether via brainstorming guidelines, the familiar corporate cultural taboo on criticism, or the influence of cognitive dissonance is to rob one of our most valuable mental faculties of fuel.

I challenge you to consider the importance of a proper Mindset on your scrum teams and keep in mind organizational psychology based upon the most basic scientific principle of all: we progress fastest when we face up to failure – and learn from it to build successful teams through proper team building training.