Employees mistakes are worthy only if they share them

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There is an old saying about mistakes that goes like this:

Only a fool learns from his own mistakes; a wise man learns from the mistakes of others

As a service designer, I see a lot of truth in this sentence, and at the same time, I would challenge it. In the field of Service Design, we try to enable an error culture. We explain to people that they should try, maybe fail and learn from their mistakes. But then why do I still like this sentence? I believe that own mistakes that aren’t shared have no value. This goes with two other core principles of Service Design which are opens and the love of sharing. A wise company is a company that helps employees learn from the mistakes of other employees. Allowing employees to fail is great, don’t get me wrong. But it’s way more powerful when we share these errors. Then others don’t have to experience themselves to learn from it.

So, I suggest to include a new ritual in the internal culture of your company. Each time an employee makes a mistake that could be helpful for others make them stop the work. Everybody stops and the person who learned something starts speaking. “Hey, I made a big mistake, and here is what I learned”. By doing so, we celebrate errors. We show that work can wait until we have all learned something. This ritual could help a team learn faster. After that little “celebration”, the speaker should think about what we could do to avoid it. Do we need to update a checklist? Do we need to put an alert somewhere in the system? Should employees add a little word in the post-its they already have under their screens?

Our own mistakes are worthy only if we share them with others. This is how we should design our error culture.