Embracing Mistakes: Fueling Growth and Innovation

October, 3 2023
Written by Eric Narcisco

A few weeks back, I witnessed a big mistake that was made after a backyard renovation project had been completed at my house. The crew had spent hours laying pavers only to realize that through a series of unfortunate events, about 80% of the pavers that were laid were wrong. As the homeowner, I had a choice. 

I could choose to be mad about it, or I could choose to embrace the mistake and allow the crew the freedom to fix it without being condemned. After all, it was not one person’s fault, and I even had a part to play in that mistake.

The crew also had a choice. 

They could choose to try and hide it and leave it for me to figure out later, or they could bring it to my attention and face the burden of having to fix it.  

This event got me thinking about making mistakes in a corporate environment, how to handle mistakes with a team, and how to identify when a company is learning from its mistakes or repeating the same offenses. 

Embrace Rather Than Punish

My #1 rule for making mistakes is not to cover them up. I want to help solve whatever mistake was made. When employees make mistakes, leaders face a pivotal choice: punish or embrace. Punishment instills fear, stifles creativity, and inhibits personal and professional growth. On the other hand, embracing mistakes fosters a culture of trust, empowerment, and innovation. 

By encouraging employees to take risks and acknowledging that mistakes are part of the learning process, leaders lay the groundwork for a resilient and dynamic workforce. If the rule is to admit mistakes, there is no room for punishment or grudges. 

However, this rule can evolve.  If the leader has made the appropriate adjustments and the employee continues to make the SAME mistake it is now time for accountability.  Accountability needs to be administered correctly, and there may be another post about that important topic. 

Admit and Learn

Companies that readily admit their mistakes and actively learn from them demonstrate a commitment to progress and continuous improvement. Embracing mistakes means challenging the status quo and taking calculated risks. It signals a dedication to providing consumers with the best products or services. These forward-thinking organizations are not afraid to evolve, adapt, and innovate, creating a competitive advantage that sets them apart in the market. When working with a new client, finding out if they’ve made the mistakes that get you the needed experience is important.

The lessons gained from mistakes become the catalysts for breakthroughs, propelling organizations to new heights and uncharted territories.

Mistake, iterate, mistake, iterate, learn.

Risks vs. Mistakes

Leaders are the ones who set the stage for taking risks:  A safe risk-taking environment for employees to seek challenges, share their experiences, and collaborate on innovative solutions. 

When risks are seen as opportunities for growth rather than failures, individuals are empowered to push boundaries, adapt, and continually improve their skills. This culture of risk-taking becomes a driving force behind long-term success. 

Poker and odds can teach us this.  If you have a 33% chance of winning 10x your investment, some advise you to take that risk. If end up losing the hand was it a mistake? Given the chance to play that same hand 3 times, one of the hands should be a winner, so the answer is clear.  Take the risk and don’t worry about those who will call it a mistake.  

Let’s embrace risk, for within risk lies the key to unlocking the full potential of individuals, teams, and entire organizations. Remember, the fastest way to stifle growth is to shy away from the invaluable lessons that calculated decisions and the “mistakes” that might arise can provide.

To Wrap Up

In many environments, the fear of making mistakes can often be paralyzing. It can become a taboo idea that creates fear and self-doubt. However, the importance of making mistakes in an environment built on trust cannot be overstated.