17 August 2016
This week I was reminded of one of my favourite Bill Gates quotes: “Success is a lousy teacher – it seduces us into thinking we cannot fail.”
Invariably success in business relies on innovation. We can only innovate and improve by looking at the most broken thing – what isn’t working? Where have you made a mistake?
With this in mind, looking at our faults and mistakes is more useful than looking at our successes.
I have made more mistakes in my time in business than I care to remember! Mistakes are funny things; I don’t look forward to making them, but at the same time I’m aware that they are a necessary evil. It’s a cliché but true nonetheless: it’s not the mistakes you make but the way you respond that will help you achieve your goals.
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last, says resilience is one of the defining skills and behaviours of successful people. I agree with him completely.
Yet, I don’t believe resilience is the same as bouncing back after a mistake or tough time. In my opinion, it is more about coming back stronger and realising the small changes you need to make to become more successful. Resilience is as much about analysing and learning from mistakes as it is about celebrating small or big wins.
Making mistakes is simply part of the job. There’s no doubt that any entrepreneur will fail more than once and their business journey will have lots of ups and downs. It’s only when you take these all on board that you can turn them into something positive.
Over the years, I’ve learned to put mistakes into perspective. Business, particularly for me, has been a steep learning curve. When I look back on past decisions with greater knowledge and hindsight, I wonder how we could have done them better.
When our first employee left us for another company, I took his decision very personally. For years, I’d get angry with myself for knowing how I should have done things differently. Then, further down the line, I realised it was this experience of a close friend and team member leaving that made me develop our existing office culture. I wanted to make sure the same thing was never going to happen again.
I don’t think anyone necessarily needs to make mistakes in order to learn and improve, but nobody should live in fear of them. Just make sure not to make the same mistake twice!
Did you make any mistakes that turned out to be valuable business lessons?