When was the last time your boss said that to you? When was the last time you said that to people who work for you? In fact, when was the last time in any situation that anyone encouraged you to make a mistake?
In these days of quality wars, there is an ever increasing demand to reduce errors and improve quality. But in work, and in life, the fear of failure can impede progress!
Oversights can lead to unhappy customers and bad reputations. Valuable time and material are often wasted in order to correct inaccuracies. The entire flow of business can be disrupted by a single lapse in judgment. Let’s face it, mistakes can be costly. Why would any smart professional actually encourage mistakes?
Twenty-first century business is moving at an ever increasing pace. The winners of today are “old news” tomorrow. Today’s market place demands new improved products delivered in more efficient ways. The future belongs to the innovators and innovation requires risk. John F. Kennedy once said “There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
The only sure way to avoid making mistakes is to do nothing. Progress requires taking risks. When you operate out on the edge, taking risks, there will always be a few mistakes. Mistakes are a crucial part of progress. If your workplace over emphasizes avoidance of mistakes, workers operate out of fear and will never look for new ways to improve.
Mistakes are also critical to the process of learning. How often have you heard that you should learn from the mistakes of others and avoid your own? Actually, we rarely learn from the blunders of others. The real lessons, the ones we always remember, come through our own mishaps. You can never make enough mistakes to help others learn. They have to make some mistakes of their own.
Still, quality is important. So where is the balance? How can we encourage risk taking and, at the same time, minimize costly errors? The key is to learn from those mistakes and avoid repeats. To avoid repeated mistakes, we must bring those miscues to the surface where we can learn from them.
A business culture that penalizes errors also fosters cover-ups. If employees are constantly reprimanded for oversights they are more likely to hide rather than discuss their mistakes. The entire workforce benefits from a climate that encourages personal growth and welcomes mistakes as valuable tools for learning.
To error is human and to forgive divine. To use mistakes as tools for improvement is progress.