The Imperfect Innovation and Evaluation Wisdom of Yoda

The wise Jedi master Yoda was famous for one quote that illustrates a truth about effort and impact that neglects something critical for innovation.

Do. Or do not. There is no try


The words of Yoda, the mythical Jedi master from the Star Wars Universe, are often quoted as the truth about converting action to impact. As an evaluative metric and guide for innovation, these words — while seeming harsh to some — speaks truth to how we assess the outcomes of what we do. Yoda’s words are helpful when I have a clear outcome and a pathway to achieve it.

Yoda’s guidance on strategy and evaluation is less helpful in dealing with issues of high complexity or novelty. When our pathway for change is unclear and the expected outcome of our actions is unknown, then trying is an outcome in itself. It is through our attempts and the reflection upon our actions and the outputs that come from them that we learn.

To innovate, we want to foster trying in our organizations. Among the strongest metrics for innovation success are documented failures like the Prototype Death Rate metric. If you want to learn and do it fast, seek to try often, consistently, and persistently in your actions. As an organization, set yourself up to do this. Use effort, attempts, and after-action reviews as metrics and guides to help you learn-through-doing. This is how most successful innovators achieve great outcomes. It’s also how social and community change comes about.

So on this Star Wars Day (and every day), consider the wisdom of Yoda and add in a little context to know when to try and when to do.

May The Fourth Be With You 🙂

I love to talk about Star Wars as much as innovation, creativity, and helping people with both. Let’s chat if you’re stuck on whether to do, do not, or try. I might be able to bring the power of the Force (or just good strategic design) to your organization.

Image Credits: Nadir sYzYgY on Unsplash

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