27 Jun The Business Value of Making Mistakes
In today’s fast-paced world, we’re all flying by the seat of our pants. This means that mistakes aren’t just commonplace – they’re virtually guaranteed. Too many managers and companies try to minimise mistakes without considering the fact that making mistakes is one of the best ways there is for us to learn lessons.
The truth is that we all make mistakes from time to time, both in our professional lives and in our personal lives. Even when we’re children, it’s the mistakes that we make that keep us safe in the world, whether we’re learning not to touch an open flame or whether we’re learning that if we run too quickly, we’ll fall over and graze our knees.
This curiosity didn’t kill the cat – it’s the reason why cats live nine lives. And while it’s true that we shouldn’t go out and try to make mistakes just for the sake of making them, it’s also true that it’s crazy for us to just ignore the learning opportunity that they provide for us. Instead of punishing employees for making mistakes, we should be thanking them for taking chances in the first place and asking them to share what they’ve learned with us.
Learning from Edison
Serial inventor and all-round genius Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” This hits the nail on the head and is a great illustration of the concept that if you try something and you fail, it simply helps to point you in the right direction. After Edison found 10,000 ways that didn’t work, it meant that he’d helped to narrow down which direction his research should take.
Let’s say that there were 20,000 potential areas of research and only one correct “solution”. By trialling 10,000 of them, Edison has doubled his odds of success, and there’s also a chance that it’s helped him to rule out other options of those initial 20,000 and to bring himself even closer to the one option that would make the research pay off.
It might not seem as though Thomas Edison has much in common with today’s business world, but the interesting thing about the man is that he was a businessman just as much as an inventor. Nikolai Tesla may have been able to rival Edison when it came to his inventions and creativity, but he didn’t have the business acumen and so as a result he was unable to secure funding in his later years and eventually died with shattered dreams.
Making mistakes and learning from them comes natural to creative types, but it should become commonplace across your business. Sure, you don’t want to actively encourage your accountancy team to make mistakes when they’re working on your financial plan, but you should empower them to play around with new software and to be as creative and as playful as possible while still getting their job done. So if you haven’t created that kind of culture yet, start to embrace mistakes and their learning potential. Good luck.