The Art of Embracing Mistakes In Business to Unlock Unprecedented Growth
In today’s fast-paced, competitive business landscape, making mistakes is an inevitable part of the journey toward success. Or at least it should be.
As a business professional, CEO, or C-suite executive, recognizing that mistakes are invaluable learning opportunities can transform how you approach challenges and drive growth within your organization. It changes the way we look at the world. It can drive consistent creativity, create the fertile ground for the incubation of ideas and new strategies for success, and revolutionize your company culture.
And yet, embracing mistakes is rare in the majority of businesses. Why? Because mistakes are looked at as a problem, a blemish, and a fault, rather than an opportunity to gather feedback and understand how to improve existing systems. When companies embrace mistakes, they unlock unprecedented growth opportunities, which could change the trajectory of an industry or organization. Furthermore, if done correctly, businesses will inevitably decrease the rate of mistakes made moving forward because of the learning opportunities that arise from their analysis and acknowledgment.
In today’s rapidly expanding and evolving business landscape, embracing mistakes in your business can be one of the most effective ways to get ahead of your competition and pave your path to success. But it doesn’t happen overnight.
It’s essential to understand why all businesses and sectors, from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, must delve into the art of embracing and learning from mistakes. And if done correctly, they can build repeatable systems for extracting powerful lessons and leverage them to unlock unprecedented growth for years.
The Power of Owning Your Mistakes
Contrary to popular belief in the business world, owning your mistakes isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a marked sign of strong leadership. Taking responsibility and acknowledging where someone or something went wrong can create an atmosphere of trust and transparency within your organization. This openness fosters an environment where your team feels empowered to take risks, innovate, and grow. And this is where the aviation industry has generated massive gains in safety and technological advancements.
In his brilliant book “Black Box Thinking,” Matthew Syed explores the vast differences between the aviation and healthcare industries, discussing the significant contrasts between their error correction systems. In 1912, more than half of US Army pilots died in crashes, with fatality rates reaching nearly 25% at aviation schools. It was essentially a coin flip on whether or not a pilot would return from a flight.
And yet, in 2013, 36.4 million commercial flights successfully carried 3 billion passengers across the globe resulting in 210 fatalities worldwide. Yes, you read that correctly.
This equates to an incident rate of nearly one in 2.4 million flights! The aviation industry’s willingness to confront crashes and errors head-on by analyzing a flight’s black boxes and pilot recordings shows how impactful embracing mistakes can be for learning over time.
As you can see, most mistakes are often seen as setbacks or failures, but in reality, they’re valuable sources of information. It’s real-time feedback. And by reframing your perspective on mistakes, you can turn them into opportunities for growth and improvement.
Analyzing the cause and effect of each error helps you identify areas that need strengthening, ultimately making your organization more resilient and agile. As a business leader in the 21st century, shifting your perspective and viewing mistakes as crucial stepping stones to success is imperative.
Embracing Mistakes Encourages a Culture of Experimentation
Innovation is the lifeblood of any thriving organization. However, it rarely comes without risk. By encouraging a culture of experimentation within your company, you can foster innovation and stay ahead of the curve. It will shift your mindset from focusing on your competition to concentrating on your customers, the secret sauce that Jeff Bezos used to build Amazon’s empire.
And yet, in industries where we would expect making mistakes via experimentation to be the bedrock of innovation, they’re often covered up.
From the outset, the healthcare industry seems like ground zero for creating innovative technologies, rapid advancements in cutting-edge procedures, and quickly changing industry standards. The randomized controlled trial revolutionized our ability to advance medicine with its invention, paving the way for centuries of growth and innovation in healthcare. One would think we had it all figured out, but numbers rarely lie.
An article published in the Journal of Patient Safety in 2013 estimated that nearly 400,000 people die every year due to premature deaths associated with preventable harm. What constitutes preventable harm, you ask? Missed or improper diagnosis, dispensing the wrong medications, falls, burns, post-operative complications, operating on the wrong body part, and injuries to the patient during surgery. They estimated that “serious harm” is 10-20 times more common than “lethal harm,” which is downright scary regarding procedures and events that can’t be undone.
One would think that these numbers are improving over time. Sadly, the literature states otherwise. Unfortunately, preventable medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. So why aren’t there more 5k races and nonprofits behind this problem? Great question.
One could argue that medicine is complex, just like business. Every situation is different and requires a critical thought process to ensure the highest level of thinking to solve the problem at hand.
But this isn’t the problem. The problem is our inability to acknowledge when mistakes are made and take steps to correct them, never to repeat them. Instead, by promoting a mindset that values learning from trial and error, you empower your team to be bold and challenge the status quo.
Mistakes can offer invaluable insights into the direction your organization should take. By analyzing what went wrong and pivoting accordingly, you can adapt and refine your strategies for success. Embracing this agility lets you stay agile and responsive to the ever-changing business landscape.
You should use your mistakes as a compass to guide your organization toward success and growth.
Business Leaders Must Start Embracing Their Mistakes and Share Lessons Learned
Sharing your experiences, both successes and failures, with your team and peers creates a sense of camaraderie and collaboration. By openly discussing your mistakes and the lessons you’ve learned, you inspire others to embrace their growth journeys. This exchange of knowledge and experience helps foster a stronger, more cohesive team capable of overcoming any obstacle.
As Syed elegantly explains, we’re all guilty of covering up mistakes to protect ourselves from others and their judgments, but instead, we’re trying to protect ourselves from our egos. Acknowledging that we made a mistake is difficult and goes against our self-identity. It solidifies the wrong decision we made in our head and makes us confront that we’re not perfect. More importantly, it pushes us towards metaphorical closed-loop systems thinking, where errors and mistakes aren’t shared or acquired; They’re merely dismissed.
Research done by the Department of Health and Human Services found that hospitals missed nearly 93% of the error-prone events that caused harm. And in a study of 800 patient records at three leading hospitals, researchers found more than 350 medical errors made by clinicians. Yet, only 4 of these errors were reported by a medical provider.
It’s not the outcomes of failure; it’s our personal perspectives and perceptions towards it. Intelligence and IQ are equated to clinical perfection in the medical world, but we know this isn’t true in the real world. We all make mistakes.
And if this is happening in medicine, you can guarantee it’s happening in the business world. It also provides some convincing evidence as to why 90% of start-ups fail and never gain traction in the market, especially since one of the top reasons start-ups fail is a lack of market fit.
By acknowledging our mistakes, we inherently admit we’re fallible and human. This makes us approachable and trustworthy, which are essential for facilitating high-level company culture and work ethic. More importantly, embracing mistakes is a surefire way to foster continued learning and growth for your organization, which will compound over time.
Embracing Mistakes Leads to Exponential and Unprecedented Growth
In the world of business, mistakes are unavoidable. But as a leader, your ability to leverage these errors for growth and improvement can set you apart from the competition. By owning your mistakes, reframing them as opportunities, fostering a culture of experimentation, pivoting and adapting, and sharing your stories, you’ll unlock unprecedented growth and success for your organization. You are the only one in control of how you go about it.
You and your organization must get comfortable embracing the power of learning from mistakes. As you do, get ready to watch your organization achieve unparalleled heights in today’s competitive landscape.
More importantly, share this article with your colleagues and peers to inspire a growth culture and learn through the art of embracing mistakes.
Written by Dr. Erik Reis.
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