Learning From Mistakes: Getting It Wrong Can Be Good for Business

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

As a business owner and employer, it can be frightening to trust your employees, let go of a little control, and give them the latitude to make mistakes. Nevertheless, the freedom to make those mistakes is critical, and the companies that embrace the spirit of innovation and risk-taking are more likely to out-compete companies that always stay in their comfort zone. As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg once noted, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”

Progress Is Full of Detours

Business ideas are anti-fragile, which means they actually grow and improve by absorbing disappointment and mistakes along the path of progress. Adopt the mindset that innovative projects carry the same attributes as an immune system or human bones – they can grow stronger through after experiencing trauma. You’ve probably learned a lot from your own mistakes during your career. Your employees probably deserve the same room to grow. Their mistakes will help them rein in their egos and hit them with a dose of reality, which can accelerate their development and future productivity.

Mistakes Auto-Correct for Your Business Goals

As long as you have well-defined goals that you can communicate to your staff, then you should treat any mistake they make as a net positive for the company. Your goal might be providing 100% customer satisfaction or being ranked among the 10 best small businesses in your region, and your employees should that in the forefront of their minds – not playing it safe to avoid getting in trouble. A lot of electronic machines use servomechanisms, also known as “servos,” that rely on error-sensing feedback to keep a machine on the correct course. In other words, they capture negative feedback and make continuous small corrections to avoid incorrect outputs. Heat-seeking missiles are a clear example of devices that use servomechanisms. The technology inside the missile constantly tracks the destination in relation to its current path, shifting mid-flight whenever it receives negative tracking feedback. You can set up your business in the same way. Honest mistakes always generate some valuable information by eliminating processes or products that do not work. Every time this happens, the road to success is a little easier to navigate because your company learns which obstacles to avoid.

Formally Embrace Calculated Risks

The growth potential from an employee mistake can be magnified when everyone learns from it. This is why it is important to remove the stigma from making mistakes and create a culture that appreciates people who take chances – even when they didn’t work out. Make risk-taking an acceptable practice through your formal company policy. Don’t go overboard, though; draw a line between mistakes in pursuit of a goal and mistakes because of lazy or careless behaviour. Communicate to your employees that making mistakes is OK if the mistakes are honest and those responsible learn from their mistakes. Let everyone know that the company embraces risk-taking if the risk is calculated and not repeated. Employees who repeat mistakes and fail to learn from them should not receive the same leniency.

References & Resources

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