Skip to the starting post of this 12 part series.

Making new mistakes (from this list) is a sign of forward progress.

Making the same mistakes is a learning difficulty!

Mistakes and failures are still bad words in business. When was the last time you or someone you know waltzed up to your boss with a big grin and said “Great news! We made a new mistake today!”?

I absolutely love the sentiment behind sayings like “Fail Forward” – and I do try and live by that in my own life and work. But can I see many businesses embrace that without hesitation? Is the earth flat?

Much of business thinking since the quality movement and Motorola’s six sigma has been around the elimination of mistakes. Rooted in production line scenarios, businesses could implement processes to increase predictability and reduce variability.

Good processes can reduce or eliminate repetitive mistakes. But they can also prevent a business from making new mistakes! The product of the quality movement – good business processes – has now potentially become a hindrance to innovation.

Good processes seek to reduce thinking, especially of the holistic kind – see my previous post: Processes make corporations stupid.

When you have processes that run smoothly, you risk falling into passively serving that process. The temptation is understandably very strong given our delight in comfort and routine. If something is working, and making money, don’t rock the boat. Until you wake up one night and the boat’s run aground because no one was steering…

Businesses can’t work effectively without processes of course. Perhaps the easiest way to work around this is not change any of the processes, but rather authorise employees to think and short-circuit the processes as required.

There is fear in making mistakes – fear arising out of threats to our ego, fear of loss of belonging (and belongings!). There is also the big fear of losing one’s job. We are still more concerned with job security than job satisfaction or creativity at work.

Working around or dismantling/adjusting established business processes also engenders the fear of loss of control, and the fear of unpredictability.