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Freedom of making mistakes

A man’s mistakes are his portals of discovery. – James Joyce

There are two barriers to experimentation:

1. Inner fear of failure

2. Outer pressure of not accepting mistakes

A leader holds a lot of responsibility for the second. How we approach our people when something goes wrong will set the basis for what happens in the future. If we’re impatient, quick to judge, we take away an important opportunity to learn. However if we accept failure, this will give a safe place for the team to keep working on better solutions.

One needs to make mistakes in order to learn how to deal with them. We can’t get good at anything without actually doing it – and it’s rare to get it right the first time.

Mistakes can also have unexpected results. Like the classic example of post-it’s accidental discovery, or an ink blot when composing music.

Some companies go as far as celebrating failures with the same ferocity as they celebrate successes. In today’s fast-moving business, we all need ideas, improvements. How can we expect them if failures are frowned upon?

19 thoughts on “Freedom of making mistakes”

  1. This is an important topic. So many people are afraid to fail, but failure is really important, as you said. I don’t always like failure, but I am learning to accept it and learn from it. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. It’s interesting because I think we all knew it as children. We made mistakes when learning to stand, walk, cycle, speak etc. We fell, we got up, and continued. But then along the way, mistakes were punished, and we learned to avoid them. So now we have to unlearn this, and go back to what we knew to start with! A little mental, if you ask me.

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  2. Making mistakes is definitely part of learning new things and there should always be room for that.
    On the other hand, there is a difference between oopsies and major f*** ups, don’t you think?
    The person that was responsible for the chyron at fox news the day they put up the statement about “three Mexican countries” made more than a booboo. Some checks were obviously skipped.
    Do you think that only the person that pressed the button to air the text did wrong or also superiors that put the wrong person on the job (or didn’t provide enough guidance)?

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    1. Yes, there are differences between a big and a small mistake, and I’m sure that the person in your example definitely learned to double check. Hopefully the company learned to look into their processes as well.
      In my opinion, the “freedom to make mistakes” is not a free “getting out of jail” card. It’s not easy to make that learning happen and of course if it happens again, it means that learning did not happen. That’s a whole different issue.

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  3. 4 years ago my school district hired a new superintendent who really believes in the “fail forward” concept. He actively encourages risk-taking and never penalizes failure. It has been refreshing and exciting to work in an atmosphere where I don’t have to be ashamed of trying something new that doesn’t necessarily go as planned.

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  4. Thank you for stopping at my blog and your comment about the settings. I have had that blog for probably 15 years and never knew about that. I just used the default settings! I changed it now. My freedom to make that mistake! 🙂

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  5. The only reason I know as much as I do about computers and technology is that I accept the risks that may screw up and lose all my work and I’m willing to play and try new ideas. Do I mess up? Yes I do. But each time I fail, I learn a new thing not to do.

    Liked by 1 person

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