All mistakes are not created equal; it is possible to design for brilliant mistakes – those that accelerate learning and lead to breakthrough innovation – and to avoid tragic ones, according to Paul Schoemaker in his book Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure. Some mistakes have high cost and offer little learning value, but others cost little and produce deep valuable insight. Those are the ones which need to be embraced and fostered.
Some of the insights contained in the book:
While I do not particularly like the term “brilliant mistakes”, I found the author’s arguments persuasive. Beneficial innovations can only arise as a result of doing something differently, and that usually involves challenging the established wisdom of departing from the established procedures. Often such deviations will be based on the contrarian “hunch” of an individual and so are deliberate although established wisdom might view them as mistakes. This book is suitable for leaders of all types of organizations, not just those who aim to be innovators, because all organizations benefit from a decision-making process that takes into account the role of mistakes.