Make Mistakes… and Learn.

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

George Bernard Shaw

Old style management

One of my pet peeves in business is when the culture does not allow for creativity, ingenuity and innovation. It is my experience that many companies – mostly larger corporations – tend to “play it safe”. You’ve heard all of the sayings…from “nobody moves, nobody gets hurt” to “make sure you cover your a**”. This is an unfortunate result of old-style management and leadership where many believe that the status quo is better than actually being progressive. The questions is: what do you learn from the status quo?

Hockey Players Are Being Smothered.

I have coached minor hockey for over 21 years now and every year we have the same issues with the new players that join our hockey team. It is a sad reflection on the state of coaching in minor hockey but most coaches work hard to “not lose” and therefore hammer the kids on making mistakes. They build a culture of “playing it safe” and therefore they stymie the creative process – the very process required for young players to develop. In business it is called “paralysis by analysis” but in hockey it is called players being scared to do anything. Some don’t even want the puck for they are afraid to get yelled at if they do something wrong.

So every year it takes four to six weeks for the new player to understand that my coaches and I subscribe to a different philosophy. We will not come unglued and yell at them when they make a mistake on the ice. On the contrary, we normally ask if they know what they did wrong and if they say yes we do nothing and if they say no we explain it to them – right then and there – in a very controlled manner. Pretty soon they figure out that they will not be chastised for trying something new and then a wondrous thing begins to happen – the player actually becomes creative. Then the next player becomes creative and pretty soon you have a hockey team made up of young men and/or women that become a force that nobody wants to play. They work hard; they try new plays; they look out for one another; they have success and most importantly they have fun. What a concept this is. What if you could do this in a workplace environment?

Make Your Culture a Culture of Learning

I once heard that the many First Nations languages throughout North America do not have a word that stands for the word “mistake’. The closest word they have to this word is “learning”. Wow – so simple and so brilliant. Instead of focusing on the “mistake” why would we not focus on the “learning”.

In our business model we have built a culture that pushes our associates to learn – to make mistakes – to try new things – to look out for each other – to strive for new successes and to have FUN. We are like that minor hockey team who learns by being innovative.

Life is like playing a violin in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.

Samuel Butler