Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Making Mistakes Speeds Success

The only people not making mistakes are ones playing their game without risk and without novelty, and I might add, without progress. If your company cannot accommodate, even reward, failure... in the long run, you cannot succeed.

Why? Doing things wrong, is the number one , and perhaps the only, source of innovation. The reason is simple: the best solutions to most problems are rarely the most obvious." James Joyce said it poetically, "Mistakes are the portals of discovery." Think about it. What did you ever learn by doing something right the first time? IBM's rumored motto about mistakes is legendary: Fail Faster.

If you are in the surgery business or fly airplanes for a living, you may not want to make any mistakes. But for the rest of us, especially if you are in a technology business, doing things wrong is prerequisite to doing things right. As the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, "If people did not sometimes do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done."

Don't penalize mistakes, encourage them. Hey, how about rewarding them? How about creating a bonus for the most brilliant (or most flagrant) mistake of the month. Put risk-taking mistake-makers' faces on your website or in your newsletter. Give them kudos! Many companies say they encourage mistakes, but really intimidate and punish the mistake-makers. As soon as you begin to do that you foster a better-safe-than-sorry attitude. Instead, put your money where your mouth is.

What about having a regular meeting dissecting the mistakes-of-the-month, trying to learn their lessons. Train people to savor their mistakes, and understand the strange paths which lead them astray. Who knows... you just might blow the lid right off your business and launch it into the wild blue yonder of glorious success.

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