Momentum by Mistakes

Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement. – Henry Ford

I came across some interesting statistics recently that underscored what could happen if 99% were good enough:

  • 12 newborns will be given the wrong parents daily
  • 2.5 million books will be shipped with wrong covers
  • 315 entries in Webster’s Dictionary will be misspelled.
  • 291 pacemaker operations will be performed incorrectly
  • 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written this year

This is just a sampling of the types of errors that would occur on a regular basis if 99% is good enough. But let’s be realistic, mistakes will be made in your business or organization and some of them will be made by you.

The question as a leader then is how to minimize them and most importantly what we can learn from them and how to keep from repeating them.

A story is told some years back of when Jim Burke as head of a new products division at Johnson & Johnson dealt with a particular mistake. One of Burke’s first projects was the development of a children’s chest rub. The product failed miserably, and Burke expected that he would be fired.

When he was called in to see the chairman of the board, however, he met a surprising reception. “Are you the one who just cost us all that money?” asked Robert Wood Johnson. “Well, I just want to congratulate you. If you are making mistakes, that means you are taking risks, and we won’t grow unless you take risks.” Some years later, when Burke himself became chairman of J& J, he continued that word.

While no one relishes in mistakes and each one is committed to excellence, a good leadership skill and practice is to allow a margin of grace for mistakes and the possibilities that it creates for future success. Consider this: you might be one giant mistake away from your greatest breakthrough you’ve been working toward. Don’t give up!


© 2012 Doug Dickerson

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About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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