Many people think that the key to success is to avoid making any mistakes. However, trying to avoid all mistakes would be a mistake in itself. Trying to do things perfectly the first time, every time, is a sure way to sabotage your own efforts. The only people who never make mistakes are the ones playing it safe and avoiding all risks, and also all progress. If your company can’t accommodate failure and even incorporate it into its plans, it will be unable to succeed in the long run. Here, Michael Eisenga, a successful entrepreneur and investor, explains how to make mistakes the right way.
Failure leads to innovation
The only way to learn how to succeed is to fail a lot first. The key to success is rarely obvious, and recognizing opportunities takes experience, which only comes from making a lot of attempts that don’t pan out. Learning a whole lot of ways to be wrong is the only way to learn to recognize what is right. If your company only rewards success or, worse, punishes failure, you prevent your employees from ever learning how to do better.
Don’t assign blame
When something goes wrong, the last thing you want is for everyone to start looking around for someone to pin the blame on. In reality, mistakes are often the result of several different factors and sometimes the result of factors beyond anyone’s control. If you, as a leader, look for someone to blame, you accomplish nothing more than getting your employees to try to hide the truth from you, which will prevent your company from ever learning from its mistakes.
Adopt a debriefing policy
If you want to make sure that your company takes full advantage of its mistakes, adopt a formal debriefing policy. Whenever something significant happens, such as a failure or the successful end of a project, debrief everyone involved. Learn exactly what happened and why. That way, you’ll know what to avoid or repeat in the future. You need to make it clear that it is not a fault-finding endeavor and that there will not be any negative repercussions if you want these meetings to work.
Hold mistake meetings
In fact, you should think about holding regular meetings dedicated to examining the recent big mistakes that everyone has made. These meetings serve two purposes: they help your employees learn from their mistakes, and they train them to get comfortable with those mistakes so that they no longer try to cover them up.
Use rapid prototyping
Adopt a rapid prototyping policy. In other words, have a policy of making new products and services quickly, without trying to make them perfect right off the bat. Just get something going that resembles what you’re trying to work toward, and then fix whatever doesn’t work. This “creative trial and error” approach will get things done a lot more quickly while teaching everyone things they didn’t expect to learn.
Forget about making everything perfect. Your company can’t afford it. Unless the functioning of your company’s product or service is a matter of life and death, the cost of trying for perfection is too high. Use the inevitable mistakes and failures as opportunities for improvement.
About Michael Eisenga
Michael Eisenga is a successful commercial real estate investor with a banking and finance background and is the former mayor of the City of Columbus. As a President of both American Lending Solutions, a mortgage lending company (he founded and operated from 2000–2018), and First American Properties, he has a track record of creating and operating successful businesses. Michael is also devoted to property development and construction, primarily serving smaller local communities, especially in the senior housing sector.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.