I have referred several times to Charles Munger, investor, critical thinker, ‘librarian’ (he reads more books than anybody else): we are successful (investors) by making less mistakes than others. I have also referred to my initiation to boat racing as a learning platform for leadership, and my conversion from sceptical to ‘you-know-what?-it-makes sense’. The instructor said, forget winning each bit, you win the race by making less mistakes than the others.
I also know, and you know as well, that we have the management mantra of ‘learning from mistakes’. A good management mantra that in truth nobody likes, but we are supposed to spouse to be cool. (Then in the corridor, the smiling conspiracy: yes, mistakes, really? Do you know what happened to John?)
I propose that we don’t make a fuss about the so-called-cool ‘learning from mistakes’ and instead, starting with senior leaders, people get used to talk about mistakes, per se. My 2 mistakes of the month were A, and B; what about yours Peter? This is what I will do next time. (Can you try to avoid the ‘this is what I’ve learned’ thing? Nothing wrong with it, but the focus is on what you’ll do next time, learning assumed)
Only elevating that language and those narratives to normality, will shape a culture of real ‘learning from mistakes’ … without saying it. The culture will become one of that kind, when you don’t have to say it.
The boat racing instructor had no problem with it. Munger (empire) has no problem with it. Why do we, in management, have to look that clever and make the point? We are learning, you see? Just learn.
A while ago, I suggested The Hall of Fame of Mistakes as a Disruptive idea, easy to implement.
Given the temptation we all have to corporatize everything that is normal and convert it into hijacked and contrived reality, my only worry is that some people may go as far as over-formalising a process for processing the mistakes and their processes. In public. Last time this was done it was the Cultural Revolution in China. I would not like to see Maoist meetings taken over…
BTW, whilst Charlie Munger possesses a modern version of the Library of Alexandria, Mao and company had only one book. Tiny. Red.
Hominem unius libri timeo ( “I fear the man of a single book”). It took 10 years in China to get another book. And by then the population was minus 1,5 million.