Building an organizational culture that embraces mistakes is a lot easier said than done. There's pride and ego for starters.  And then there is the reality that making a mistake, especially big mistakes, is no fun.  However, the more you practice airing out mistakes, the easier it will be to rebound and learn from them.

In change management, helping leaders build improvisational ways of working in order to work more efficiently and collaborate is connected to embracing mistakes.  There's a lot to learn, for example, from jazz, where there aren't really mistakes.  It is all about the build.  Some companies, like Velvet design agency in Estonia, published their list of mistakes in a "Faekapedia".  What we make visible, we can no longer avoid.  

One way to learn new habits about dealing with mistakes, is to learn from others.  Check out these 4 documentaries to be newly inspired about making mistakes.

"The Dawn Wall"   

I was inspired to watch The Dawn Wall after hearing an interview wth the two rock climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, on a Fresh Air interview. While their choreographic approach to free climbing was interesting in and of itself, what struck me was their matter of fact comment in the interview that "there is constant failure".  They accepted that in every moment of the ascent in Yosemite National Park they would fail more than they succeeded.   What possesses someone to embrace a challenge day after day when they know their incremental successes will be diminished in the face of multiple failures?  There is a lot to learn from that.  

"Jiro Dreams of Sushi"  

This documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi,  captures a life story through the lens of sushi.  Jiro Ono is an 85-year old sushi chef, and his restaurant, located in a Tokyo subway station, has been awarded a 3-star Michelin rating. Ono states that, "Even at my age, in my work, I haven't reached perfection".  I've included this documentary because pursuing perfection means you are constantly aware of mistakes.  Ironically, that hyper-awareness of imperfections is a catalyst, not a hindrance.  

"March of the Penguins"

I first saw the 2005 American version of the French documentary, March of the Penguins, narrated by Morgan Freeman.  There is no greater place to mine examples of the more perilous effects of navigating mistakes, than in nature.  Witnessing the life and death environment that even infant penguins must face was especially poignant.  It puts into perspective the failures we bemoan and the regrets we may have.  

"Mad Hot Ballroom"

Another 2005 documentary, Mad Hot Ballroom, was endearing and joyous in the profiles of New York City public school children preparing for a city-wide ballroom contest.  My takeaway?  Acquire a practice outside of your daily work obligations that keep you humble because of all the floundering you will experience.  Going back to being a beginner, or even intermediate student, of anything, is one way you become better at accepting failure in your everyday work.  Most importantly it helpd you develop a sense of humor about yourself.

In conclusion, flip the paradigm and approach failure as an opportunity for growth. Get inspired by others' sharing, as in these documentaries.  Sometimes knowing you're not alone, makes challenges easier.  

Published on: Nov 30, 2018
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