Great Mistakes

My six-year-old son was trying to put together an elaborate puzzle this past weekend. I watched carefully and noticed on several occasions the pieces he was looking for were right in front of him. I hesitated to help, observing him figuring it out for himself.

After a few tries he realized on his own it would be easier to group together similar pieces so his searches would be efficient. Coincidentally, when I went to have lunch with him last week, I ran across this room at his school with the sign above the room that read “Great Mistakes Are Welcome Here.”

And I loved the concept of having a place where the objective was to, in fact, make mistakes. I hope I don’t need to qualify this by clarifying that we should not all go out and recklessly (without thought) make mistakes that are harmful to us, others, or to our businesses. No. The idea is to pick a challenge at home or work where the solution is not obvious, then to try a series of alternatives knowing very well that some or most of them will fail. As my son learned, specifically from those mistakes–those alternatives that did not work–often arise the best learning and solutions. The adage “don’t let perfection get in the way of progress” comes to bear here, too.

This week, I suggest you carve out a time or a place at home or at work where you just try a whole lot of alternatives to a challenge you’ve been facing. It may require you assemble a partner or a team together and collectively make mistakes as in the room at my son’s school.

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