Days since last mistake = 0

Imagine an organisation where no mistake is done, everything is complete with precise accuracy and on first try. Everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to do, and everyone always does what others are expecting to be done…

It might sound like a robotic workplace, very mechanic with no surprises. Maybe that’s because it is. A world without mistakes certainly does not include humans, but eager machines or robots that look like humans — like a story taken from Westworld: a TV series where humans interact with life like robots where their actions are limited to the programme running on them.

But in our world, to my best knowledge, there are only humans and we know mistakes are part of the human nature — actually part of nature, and it has been key for the evolution of all species.

Photo by David Trawin | CC some rights reserved
Mistakes are not only necessary but precious, essential and without them there is no development, no advancement and no innovation.

If you look back at the Lunar man landing in 1969, remember there were many missions before and after that event, and some worked well such as the unmanned Luna 2, 17 and 21, while others crashed when attempting to land on the moon (Luna 1, 13, 15 and 18) or lost radio contact immediately after landing (Surveyor 4), and many other didn’t even make it out of the earth’s atmosphere…

The thing to remember is: for all the other missions that didn’t work, the audience was certainly not 500 million people (number of people that saw Neil Armstrong stepping the moon for the first time). We tend to see success everywhere, not because mistakes and failures do not exist, but because we shy away from sharing those with others. The exception are the many fail videos that populate YouTube and the TV… and those are for entertainment and laughing — laughing at other people’s infortunes.

We are definitely not used to look at mistakes as a good thing: as a learning tool, as necessary steps to discover something amazing, as an innovation instrument; as something that we were certain was the right thing, until more information made us realize that we could actually done it differently and better.

Mistakes are (almost) never done on purpose: no one thinks “let me choose this way because it will be a great mistake”. We choose paths we believe are the best way to do something (with the level of information we have to make that decision), and if you remember, we only think it’s a mistake after we have more info than the one we had initially.

In the workplace, we should strive to see mistakes as essential tools for development, creative solutions and innovative ideas; fostering an environment where mistakes are openly shared so that people can learn together from those.

Once we are able to see all actions we take as endless possibilities of prototyping solutions and paths, the benefit of mistakes will emerge as inevitable and eventually something we can cherish and see as an important part of all processes.

That workplace will feel more humane, and it will feel… well… right.