Let’s start this article traditionally, like you’d encounter it being a high school teacher, with a definition. Merriam-Webster tells us a mistake is either “a wrong judgment (misunderstanding)” or “a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge, or inattention”.
So, does that already match with what you consider to be a mistake or does it not match up? For me, it was a partial match on my personal understanding of what the term entails. In plain English we might all agree on the following definition. Making a mistake means doing something wrong.
But don’t we all make mistakes and is that really such a problem? Yes, we all did something wrong in the past. Yet, I believe that if you learned from your mistake, you did at least not fail. Making mistakes is the essence of improvement and innovation.
Mistakes are also sometimes subjective. Your way of doing something is very likely to be different from me trying to achieve the same result. That, however, does not mean that you’ve made a mistake in doing so. Neither does it mean that I’ve made a mistake because I go about something differently.
Especially when we are evaluating the actions of others, we should stick to simple measurables. Let’s not look at the path of activities that were undertaken to achieve a goal. Let’s focus on comparing input, output, required time, or other consumed resources. That’s what matters.
If you give someone else a task, don’t tell them what you want them to do like a micro-manager. Give them a goal and let them figure out how they could best achieve that. You’ll be surprised with the solutions that come up by doing that. Engaging assignments like that is often leading to a very efficient culture of innovation. If there was no better way to achieve the goal, you can still stick to the good ol’ ways. No harm in trying though.
Did you ever hear about work cultures that not only tolerate but encourage making mistakes? Simon Casuto wrote about this subject matter in his Forbes article “Why Failure Is The Key To Workplace Culture Success“.
I believe it’s ok to make mistakes and it feels good to say you’ve made a mistake. No need to stress about hiding an issue. Face it, explain it, regret it if you need to, but then learn from it and do it better the next time. You’ll be surprised how mature really professional people can be if you simply agree that you’ve made a mistake. Done. End of the story. Forget about yesterday and focus on what will happen tomorrow instead.
Do you think I made a mistake when writing this article? Did I overlook a typo or could I have done a sentence better? You tell me. And I’ll learn from it. Tomorrow’s article will be better. Thanks for reading!
Photo: Chris Brown / Garrett Gill / Japanexperterna.se