Sarah Lewis on Failure: A Catalyst for Innovation

March 31, 2014

Author Sarah Lewis speaks with Aspen Institute Arts Program Director Damian Woetzel about her new book.

Author Sarah Lewis recently spoke at the Aspen Institute to discuss her debut book, “The Rise: Creativity, The Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery,” with Aspen Institute Arts Program Director Damian Woetzel. Released in March 2014, “The Rise” is a layered, story-driven investigation of how innovation, discovery, sand the creative process are all spurred on by advantages gleaned from the improbable, the unlikely, and failure.

As a faculty member at Yale University School of Art, Lewis is well-versed in culture and the arts. She served on President Barack Obama’s Arts Policy Committee during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and was selected for Oprah’s “Power List.”

While at the Institute, Lewis spoke about the creative process generally. “I wrote the book because I do feel as if we start to understand how better to be in the world if we start to understand how creativity thrives when we actually find advantages in these different obstacles, in failure, in setbacks, in roadblocks,” she said.

Read below for highlights from Lewis’ conversation.

Lewis on taking advantage of difficult situations:

There’s so many things that can be found, though, when you let yourself accept it for what it is, take the poison out of whatever’s going on, and get the feedback, and use that to actually improve.”

Lewis on failure:

“I’m not recommending it, but I will say that I’m an advocate of what can come from it. I think there are ways to find safe havens, to have modes of experimentation that will allow for failure to get to that breakthrough that you need…”

Watch the full session, below.