Written by Dave Hengartner, Co-Founder/CEO of Ready Supporting SaaS startups to unleash their biggest innovation asset: their employees.
You were not born knowing everything you know now, right? I certainly haven’t, so one might wonder why organizations still have such a hard time learning from mistakes. What stops companies from instilling a culture of error within their four walls?
In my journey in business, advising and training for more than 30 companies and other companies over the past five years, I’ve seen company culture in many different companies, and I can tell you that it’s not easy to come up with a comprehensive and well-executed bug culture by. It’s on everyone’s lips, and we hear it everywhere, but what about building it that hard?
First, we must ask: How can failure help you as an individual, but more importantly, as part of a company? As the founder of a SaaS company that supports and unleashes internal entrepreneurship within companies, I can tell you that with innovation nowadays more important than ever, it is crucial to know that mistakes are the only thing that paves the way for potential success. The pace of innovation has accelerated significantly, so in order to be in the action you need to stay on the ball, which starts with the right mindset regarding dealing with mistakes.
Ideas rarely manifest the way they were originally intended. You need as many diverse ideas as you can get because relatively few of them will work in the end. It’s all about failing, killing ideas early and trying more often. Let me tell you, from my experience, what are the four things I’ve identified that get in the way of error culture.
1. Thinking that all mistakes are equal
Not all errors are the same. It is safe to say that mistakes should not happen. We all agree on that. A company that allows such a mindset does not operate efficiently, wastes resources and will be forced out of the market sooner or later.
However, some errors are unexpected, and for these, you should not punish your employees. To prevent any kind of error from occurring, nip every innovative idea in the bud by effectively limiting your employees’ motivation for creativity. You want creative and innovative solutions, making risks and therefore mistakes inevitable.
2. preferential treatment
Randomness will kill any credibility in maintaining a culture of error. All mistakes, especially mistakes made to people who are higher up the career ladder, must be dealt with consistently in the same way as the rest of the company.
Actually, for example, one of the founders missed an important deadline for a new product. We had a meeting with all the employees involved and discussed what went wrong and why. Focus on letting management admit its mistakes! This creates “role models” for employees in promoting an uncomplicated approach to error and ensures a fair and credible error culture.
3. Sweep it under the rug
When something goes wrong, talk about it! Have people deal with their mistakes instead of exposing them. Reward employees who dare to open up about it and can show that they have learned something.
As a prerequisite for a healthy error culture, you need the right feedback culture. Formats like “Friday Failures” – where open discourse about everyone’s weekly mistakes should be encouraged and brought to light. Providing space for everyone in the company to think will reduce the chance of repeating volatile mistakes.
All employees will benefit from hearing the mistakes of others, learning from each other and bringing them together as a team. Ultimately, a culture of trust is achieved, which marks the end of everything for an open feedback culture.
4. Lack of confidence
As with personal relationships, trust in the company requires good communication. For a culture of error to flourish, there must be a culture of justice, a culture of feedback and, finally, a culture of trust. If these elements are missing, the company cannot create a proper error culture.
Open, honest and transparent communication is essential and can be further enhanced by those in leadership positions. My narrow-mindedness and resentment make this very difficult. Courage to experiment, innovation and creativity should be supported, and allowed to occur in the process should be clearly reported. Flexibility and willingness to accept change are required of both employees and management.
In conclusion, I would say that a culture of health error is critical to a company’s success, but it is not a piece of candy that can be built and maintained. It requires clear attention and action because achieving a culture of error is not a product of chance.