How to learn from your mistakes

30 August 2002 by
How to learn from your mistakes

The man who never made a mistake never made anything, as the saying goes. Errors, omissions, mistakes and problems can be turned into positive experiences, into something to learn from. And employers who can create a workplace culture without fear of failure will benefit from increased creativity from their employees.

Things to think about when dealing with problems in the workplace

What to do with the culprit Most people don't enjoy getting it wrong and they usually learn from their mistakes. There was a great example at IBM when a member of the team made a multi-million dollar mistake. On being called to the chief executive's office he said: "I guess you're going to sack me?" "Sack you? Hell no," replied the chief executive. "You've just completed the most expensive training session we ever had, why would we want to sack you? Get back in there and tell everyone else what you did so that they don't need to."

Whose fault?
Are you creating a "blame" or a "responsibility" culture? It is easy to accuse and blame, not easy to take responsibility. Remember though, if you were a customer you wouldn't care who was responsible, the organisation let you down and all you want is a solution so make sure your people are able to provide that solution.

Look at what works, not what doesn't
We are taught to find the things that are wrong. If you ask a child how the spelling test went, he will say "Oh, I got one wrong" not "I got 19 right". How often do you support and praise your team compared to criticising them?

Life doesn't have to be a bitch Potentially negative things happen, so revise the way you think about them. Through thinking negatively, you will never find the right solution, let alone use the problem to improve the business. Thinking positively will encourage the team to do the same. As any taxi driver will tell you: rain is good - business picks up.

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