“If you’re not making mistakes then you are not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” John Wooden
Mistakes are an essential element of creating. It’s not a question of ‘doing it wrong’. It’s a question of playing, experimenting, observing, analyzing, visioning until one arrives at the moment that ‘feels right’. Mistakes are the work that happens until nothing more can be done without diminishing.
Mistakes are miles traveled on the road to a creative destination.
Managers, hear me now.
If you are not willing to allow your team to take the ride, don’t expect them to arrive. You may get somewhere. And, it may be somewhere that moves you closer. But, you will likely be disappointed if you are expecting your team to discover or create anew without making any mistakes. Columbus told his Queen that he’d reached the East Indies….
Walk with me:
You are a child. You are playing ‘kitchen’ or ‘toolshed’ or ‘bikes’ or something. Let’s just say it’s ‘kitchen’. You have the Bake-It-Easier-Than-Mom oven going, your little table is set, and your siblings are seated around it. You’ve whipped up your first little chocolate brownie cake and the ‘ding’ goes off letting everyone know that the baking is done. Mouths are watering in anticipation. You open the little door and the ‘cake’ comes out. It looks a little grey on one side, but hey, it’s a cake and you made it! You break it into pieces, pass the plates, and everyone takes a bite. Your youngest sibling get’s an awful look on his face as the older one let’s out a ‘eewwww’. You are crestfallen. It takes time and help from Mom to sort out that maybe you didn’t stir the ingredients enough and the sibs are getting a big mouthful of salt or baking powder. Round two …
Now, let’s say you are the first person in the world ever to make a cake. You and no one else know to stir the batter thoroughly and the result is just as unappetizing. You decide, “It didn’t work. I’m quitting.” No cake for the world because you quit. On the upside, maybe the world is a little slimmer, but really, no cake?
Or, let’s say you were the boss of the first person who ever made a cake and you said, “That’s it. It doesn’t work.” No cake for the world because you put on the brakes?
Or, maybe, a competing baker keeps at it, invents the cake and takes away your pastry business.
That baker probably agreed with Thomas Edison,
“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
And what about this? Sometimes it’s not about getting it wrong ….
Sometimes it’s about timing, or being in sync with people’s needs or knowledge base, or about something else that’s already out there.
For example, I learned as an actress that if you thought a perfect, mistake-free audition was going to get you the part, you would be in for a lot of disappointment. The casting director could want a blonde and you are brunette, or they’d want someone more like her … or him … and you weren’t. Or, they want the cake to be vanilla and you made it chocolate. Or, they want the widget to be fireproof and you made it flammable. Or, they want the ad copy to reach 15-25 year olds and you wrote it for 25-50 year olds. Get the picture?
If you are about having your creative cake and eating it, too, mistakes are part of the recipe.
If the work is creating a’new … a new dish, script, program, painting, building, system, procedure, technique, company, song, arrangement, fragrance, answer, question, solution, company …
people are going to be making mistakes.
That’s part of the fun 😉