There’s a wealth of stories about what individuals learned from making mistakes, or how they recover from failures. Anyone who does not make mistakes (or admit them), will not be exposed to this expanded dimension of experience. This applies universally, regardless of sector or industry.
I once had a boss who would ignore an idea at a meeting this week, but would raise it at the next meeting as his idea – if it worked, he took credit, if not the original thinker would get the blame. Can’t be wrong under this system.
Similar results happen when the goal is too easy or is not specific – when the bar is this low there’s a danger of tripping over it – hard to make a mistake if the measure is simply coming to work.
In an early iteration of networks and the internet, my organization had an eclectic collection of PCs of various brands and capabilities, software which spanned the DOS and Windows worlds – we had 6 different versions of word processing software – a rag-tag collection at best. The equipment failed frequently and our techs could spend up to 30 minutes just figuring out the combination of hardware and software BEFORE they could work to fix the problem.
We were planning a patchwork solution for replacing network equipment and software within available budget – about to place the order – when a doer from production suggested leasing all new equipment.
With this new perspective, we worked the numbers and found we could accomplish a complete replacement of the network over 90-days by leasing everything. The monthly cost of the lease fell within our budget constraints and the savings from fewer and shorter service calls offset most of the greater overall cost of leasing.
We would not have made this decision, or moved the network forward had we not avoided the mistake of repeating what we’ve done before without investigating other alternatives. The outcome was better by avoiding the ‘safe’ do it because we’ve done it before approach.
Recovery is a powerful teacher – it only takes on time as a child touching the stove to develop great respect for the appliance – and we learn a great deal more if something does not come out as we had expected (or hoped). The critical element is how we use this knowledge – and, as leaders, that we permit error with recovery as a natural event of professional growth.
If you are always right, you are doing something wrong! What have you learned by mistake?