The great thing about mistakes

On your worst day at work, take heart from some of humanity’s more significant blunders:

• The Dutch discovering Australia 100 years before the British but ignoring it because they thought it was a useless desert

• Not putting enough life boats on the Titanic because it was ‘unsinkable’

• Faulty construction of the Chernobyl Reactor, leading to its historic meltdown

• 1990’s leading search engine, Excite failing to buy Google for US$250,000

• Market leader, Coke unveiling its new formula and flavour ‘New Coke’

• Italian airline, Alitalia accidentally advertising business class flights from Toronto to Cyprus for $39 instead of $3900. It sold 2,000 tickets at this incorrect price.

In both a personal and business context, mistakes provide an opportunity for improvement through learning and fixing. Coke was very quick to withdraw its ‘New Coke’ and I’m sure Alitalia implemented some new processes around advertising.

Mistakes are not the same thing as failing. In fact, marketers see customer mistakes as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship. So how do we use mistakes to our advantage?

Here’s a couple of handy frameworks that you can use in any business:

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The second framework is about being open to learning and is called “I Know” thinking.

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With “I Know” thinking, we close ourselves off from considering new solutions or knowledge and just operate in the ‘I Know’ segment. We might be aware that there are some things we don’t know (KDK segment) but are unwilling to learn. In the DKDK segment there is a massive volume of knowledge that we don’t even know exists. Have you ever thought that there must be a better way to do something but aren’t prepared to investigate? That’s classic KDK?

When we make mistakes, we need to have an open-minded approach to understanding what caused the problem and how we can solve it. We also need an established culture of ownership and responsibility (as opposed to blame and denial).

Recently we made a mistake with a client’s statement. After a telephone conversation with the client, we followed up with an apology card. We then went through the Mastering Mistakes framework and changed one of our processes. The next day the client sent us a lovely email. Mistake rectified. Our business processes are better. Life goes on.

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What sort of mistakes have you encountered in your business? And how have you resolved them?

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over”

Richard Branson