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Mistakes at work - is it normal?

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3 min

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449

Since childhood, we are taught that mistakes are bad. Everywhere: in school, in life, and at work. But is it so scary to make mistakes at work? I figured it out and came to ambiguous conclusions.
Mistakes at work - is it normal?

Now, after reading books and articles on self-development, I understand that mistakes are a great learning mechanism and the main driving force of progress - and I am not afraid to make mistakes. In the end, we learn to walk, we remove the packaging of the fast food roll from the right side, we make discoveries - all through mistakes. But ten years ago I was very afraid of them.

In this short article, I will tell you where the fear of mistakes comes from, what types of mistakes there are in the work, whether to be afraid of them and how to benefit from the mistakes.

Why we are afraid to make mistakes

For many, the fear of mistakes is rooted in childhood (as well as a lot of other problems from adult life) - to education and study.

My fear of making a mistake began to form under the influence of my parents: they criticized, punished for misdeeds, made me feel guilty, did not encourage initiative. I know a dozen of the same poor devils in my social circle, and I can't imagine how many of them there are all over the world.

However, even if the parents were treated, the school will still take its toll. The school grading system works in such a way that the child has no right to make a mistake, because any action is evaluated. And although the score can be corrected later, the trace remains. Adding fuel to the fire is the teacher's attitude to the student, which over time is increasingly based on the train of grades that he received in the course of his studies. It is, of course, understandable: teachers are real people and also like to rank everything. For example, divide students into "strong" and "weak".

At the same time, everyone forgets that the assessment is just a symbol of the degree of assimilation of a particular part of the curriculum. With a light teacher's (or maybe parent's) hand, it turns into an end in itself for the child: you can't get "C's", you can't make mistakes. And so, for at least 11 years, until the university explains that it's cool to make mistakes. If you're lucky, of course.

In short, it is possible and necessary to make mistakes in the learning process, although we are usually not taught this. This affects the attitude towards mistakes in the future, including at work.

Types of mistakes at work

Amy Edmondson, in an article for the Harvard Business Review, divided the mistakes that a person makes at work into three groups (this division seems to me as the most logical):

  • Preventable mistakes. Really "bad" mistakes, which are usually associated with various violations of working processes - especially in production or in the service sector. Such mistakes most often occur due to non-compliance with the rules, violations and inattention. They deal with them, respectively, with the help of instructions (prescribe how to find and eliminate the causes of mistakes) or corporate culture (constantly analyze any mistakes, draw conclusions and improve working processes).
  • Unavoidable mistakes in complex systems. Mistakes due to the unpredictability of workflows, when situations arise that no one has ever encountered before. For example, in what order to help patients in intensive care? Often serious mistakes in complex systems occur due to many small ones that went unnoticed. You can avoid such mistakes by analyzing the mistakes that have occurred, managing risks, ensuring security at the current level, identifying and correcting minor shortcomings.
  • Smart mistakes when developing innovations. These are the "good" mistakes. They occur during experiments when you need to go beyond the rules and you can't predict the results in advance. This includes the invention of new drugs, the creation of innovative products, and even Internet marketing, where the entire workflow is a series of experiments.

In general, with mistakes in the work, everything is not clear. On the one hand, some mistakes here start to cost money, and sometimes someone's life. On the other hand, you can't create anything new without mistakes.

How to know if you can make a mistake

To do this, just think logically:

  • How terrible and catastrophic will the mistake be?
  • Can you fix it if something happens?
  • How will your colleagues and superiors react to your mistake?
  • Will you be able to learn valuable experience from a mistake?
  • If you make a mistake, you will lose more than you gain, or vice versa?

Having already answered these questions, you will understand whether it is worth it at all.

How to benefit from working mistakes

Even if you make a mistake that is not "good", it is still possible (and necessary) to extract as much benefit from it as possible in order to avoid it in the future. Every mistake needs to be made only once, and here are some tips on how to do it:

  • Don't do any self-examination. This will not correct the mistake, and you will not gain experience.
  • Stay calm and look at things soberly. Emotions distort reality and prevent you from making the right decisions.
  • Try to look as objectively as possible at the real state of things - to understand what really happened.
  • Think not about what happened as a result (no, think, of course, but not now), but about what caused the mistake - what sent you on the wrong path.
  • Identify the reason for the failure and understand that this is just another option, how not to do it. As Thomas Edison said:

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.

Mistakes in the work should be treated calmly. Especially when someone's life and multi-million dollar budgets do not depend on them. In the work of complex organizations (especially large ones), mistakes are inevitable.

Do not think that tolerance for mistakes will provoke their growth. It is important not to react too harshly to them (not to blame yourself or your colleagues), to eliminate them in time, to draw conclusions, to improve yourself and improve your work processes.

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