Why Making Mistakes Can Be Good For Business

I just listened to a brief clip featuring the late Steve Jobs in front of an audience of shareholders/ interested parties. In the clip Jobs received some significant criticism from one particular guy in the audience about the failure of one of their products.

Jobs thought about the criticism for some considerable time and one of his most telling comments said (in essence) ‘yes, we make mistakes, but every time we make a mistake, by definition, we make a decision and then move forward’.

This is a great reality check comment. The real creative people in our world don’t suddenly have a ‘light bulb’ moment and change the game entirely as a result. The process toward game changing moves is a gradual one with lots of experiments, prototypes, test models along the way that fail to meet requirements but are improved upon and improved upon until the final product or service meets the standards sought and then they become a real game changer!

Apple’s path to success has been littered by mistakes along the way but mistakes have become part of the creative process for them and are progress markers. Let’s look at another great entrepreneur. Before launching his revolutionary Cyclone Vacuum cleaner James Dyson had exhausted something like 4500 prototypes but every ‘mistake’ made was progress.

In aerospace we know how much safer flights are nowadays, versus, say 50 years ago. Far fewer crashes and fatalities ‐ let’s be thankful for that. But how has this come about? Why has such great progress in safety been made? The answer, to a large extent, lies with the Black Box which records meticulously the activity on the plane and in the unfortunate cases where a plane and people have been lost, plays information about the flight back to interested parties. They then learn from errors and mistakes and inbuild improvements into future planes and improve processes if required ‐ they learn and progress.

Too many organisations are stuck in the present, frightened to make mistakes, discipline employees who do and sadly, as a result, will therefore never be gamechangers. The problem is someone in their market will be and then they will be left behind. This is never truer than now, in the digital age, where many new businesses spring up daily. Not grasping the opportunity to experiment and change and challenge the status quo will see many businesses sink without trace.

What’s the message to Business Owners/ Management?
    • Learn from the tactics and approaches of people who changed markets
    • Adopt a ‘willing to learn from mistakes’ ethos.
    • Don’t castigate employees who try but make errors ‐ rather make them understand that there is a need to get it right but encourage experiments and ideas from your teams.
    • Control, organise and measure experimentation to avoid duplication etc. As long as controls are in place no damage will be done to the business and a hell of a lot of good could come out of it.

To learn how we have helped our clients create great game changing results in their markets get in touch at:


07747 023610

David Turner

Managing Director