Monday, March 22, 2004

A culture of mistakes

This Washington Post article telling me that today is International Goof-Off Day started me thinking about mistakes.

The article (which is in the KidsPost but is a good read nonetheless) lists a series of "goofs" that turned out to be great discoveries. Several of what are popular products today were once considered mistakes--for example, Coca-Cola, popsicles, and ice cream cones. And penicillin, of course, was a mistake that has saved many people's lives.

What is the culture around mistakes at your company? If happy accidents like those had occurred at your organization, would the product, service, or idea be tossed out the window before its discovery as a viable, even innovative and exciting idea? Would the person who made the mistake be punished before he or she had a chance to show what the value of the mistake was, or what valuable learning came from it?

The culture at some companies is such that people are scared to take risks and try new things, thus not making mistakes but perhaps wasting great ideas and talent (not to mention learning experiences). How can learning and development professionals help companies create a culture in which mistakes and the learning that comes from them are not only accepted but also welcomed? And how can workers learn to turn mistakes into successes? Please click on the comment link to share your thoughts with me and each other.

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