Today’s blog post is by Aaditi Padhi, one of the talented high school interns who worked with Team Toolkit this summer. We were delighted to have her on the team and are glad she’s sharing her story and experiences in this post!

Does this blog’s title question sound familiar? I’m sure many of you can relate to the anxiety of doing something wrong or the uncertainty of trying something new. This is a question I asked myself more times than I could count throughout my internship. Most of my experience as a high school intern in the ITK team was smooth sailing, but at times, it was clouded by uncertainty and a fear of failure. Some of the most important lessons I learned this summer were to embrace that fear and to keep persisting because not every problem has a crystalclear solution (cliché, I know). However, these lessons also translate into advice for those of you using the ITK. So, from my summer stories to your creative journey as a reader, here are my top tips for innovating smart, not right. 

 An Intern’s Guide to Continuous Improvement: 

Whether it’s working through a design process or trying your hand at carpentry, it’s unlikely that you’re going to hit the nail on the head on your first try. Early on, I realized that innovating is not always about getting perfect results right away, but rather it involves looping through a process of adding, receiving feedback, and changing. Sometimes, it took me as little as one shot to conceive ideal results, but many other times, it took multiple feedback sessions until I refined a product.  

Continuous improvement is a term that embodies this method – it describes the process of incremental changes over time. In this sense, using the ITK is an excellent example of this concept. It takes a handful of tools, many creative thinkers, and dozens of iterations to create a deliverable. At times, each iteration may not even bring forth improvements – but fear not, because persistence is the key to succeeding.  

 There are no Wrong Answers 

As a preface, innovating isn’t like solving an algebra problem where there is only one correct answer. It’s a common misconception that innovation tools only involve solutions that fit a certain frame. Using a multitude of tools in the toolkit and observing ITK workshops has taught me that there are no wrong answers. The diversity of ideas that are offered is one of the most crucial parts of the design process. In fact, receiving a wide variety of answers, whether they align with the traditional path or not per se, can be useful in other ways. Countless times have I proposed an idea that seemed insignificant or irrelevant at the time, but later came in handy later since I could recycle or repurpose them. It’s true that an idea may not be the most viable or appealing, but sometimes, it is better to keep it to the side than deem it worthless. Remember, when in doubt, write it down! 

 Don’t Be Afraid to Fail 

It took a failed startup and multiple downfalls for Bill Gates to start Microsoft. Arianna Huffington was rejected by 37 publishers before her publication rose to fame as the Huffington Post empire. Steve Jobs was even fired from a company he founded before he came back to help push Apple to success. In an era of exploration, one of the most important things to remember is that failure cultivates success. One of the reasons I was so close-minded at the beginning of my internship when I only focused on doing things the “right” way, was my fear of failure. However, as I got comfortable with the design process, I also got comfortable with pushing my boundaries and accepting the fact that it’s ok to fail. Having a fear of failing will only limit the ideas you produce, but welcoming failure as a reality gives you the freedom to think beyond the scope of ‘conventional’.  

Hopefully, these tips will inspire you to dive into an ocean of innovation. It is, admittedly, an intimidating notion, but it takes time, hardships, and failures to drive towards success. To quote Babe Ruth, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”