The way an organization responds to mistakes tells you a lot about its corporate culture. In an article on innovation for Fast Company, Scott and Ken Blanchard look at the different responses they’ve seen in working with organizations.
Some organizations see mistakes as opportunities to learn. These are the organizations that create innovative environments where people grow, develop, and improve.
Other organizations respond to mistakes by finding fault and assigning blame. As the Blanchard’s explain, “It’s a negative approach that assumes neglect or malfeasance that requires punishment. This type of attitude produces a risk-averse organization where people play it safe instead of stepping out and trying new ideas.
“Now your organization takes on a culture similar to the classic arcade game, Whac-A-Mole, where most employees keep their head down except for the unsuspecting novice who pops his head up only to have the oversized mallet pound him or her back down if their initiative fails. Once an organization develops that type of culture, it is very difficult for innovation to take hold.”
What type of culture do you have?
For organizations looking to improve, the Blanchard’s recommend a three-step process:
1. Examine your current attitude toward mistakes. As a company, what’s your typical reaction to mistakes and failures? Are they seen as an opportunity to learn or to assign blame?
2. Consider your impact as a leader. What you are personally doing to encourage people to take risks and try something truly innovative? Keeping new ideas alive is hard work. Are you recognizing the efforts of people who take risks in spite of the threat of failure?
3. Find ways to engage in positive practices as a discipline. It’s so easy for things to turn negative—both internally, inside your own head—and externally as a corporate culture. As a leader, it’s important to shift from a backwards looking attitude of fault and blame to a more forward-focused approach of identifying cause and responsibility.
Give your people the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best intentions. Instead of assigning blame, look to assign responsibility for moving the organization forward given what was just learned. Leaders who take this more constructive approach can begin eliminating the fear and negative inertia that plagues many organizations. With practice, you’ll see the difference you can make in the creation and adoption of new ideas.
To read the complete article, check out To Encourage Innovation, Eradicate Blame at Fast Company