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What should we do with our mistakes?

Oct 25, 2013
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Take a hypothetical situation. Two company work in the same industry. One, while make mistakes, never hide it. Announces publicly and begs pardon, if required. And makes promise to do better in coming days. Contrary, another company, while makes mistake take all measures to cover it up. It seldom accepts responsibility of any mistakes or failure. It claims perfect.

What do you think about these two companies, about their future, about their performance?

To me first one wins in long run. Why? Accepting mistakes will make it more credible in long run. It will also inspire an environment of action and innovation within the company.

To err is human. We all know that. And making mistakes is a very human nature. But what is fatal is not mistake but avoiding the lessons mistakes pose us. Mistakes are our opportunity to learn.

There are two paths you can take: either make mistake, fail or sit tight and do nothing. Whenever you go for making something, doing something, mistakes will come in and take a big part of it. However, as long you take mistakes as your ally to grow and move forward you are going to win.

Our general tendency when we make mistakes is to cover them up. Mistakes embarrass us. We feel like it declares our incompetency. But what happens when we cover up out mistakes?

What are the consequences of not admitting mistakes and not learning from mistakes?

I’ll be trying to look into some of my own experiences and others to find answer. Read on.

1. We avoid mistakes and stop growing:

The remedy, we think, to covering mistakes up is not making mistakes at the first place. It creates an environment of inertia and inaction and fear. As everybody becomes afraid of mistakes nobody ships. Consequently, we stop growing. In an environment where making mistakes is an issue of utter discouragement, progress staled. Innovation disappears. Progress run away.

2. We don’t solve problem:

Carol Dweck’s experiment on successful children explains children with a tendency to make mistakes often solve more problems than of those who fear making mistakes. Carol Dweck shows that children who solve more problems actually like making mistakes and don’t feel ashamed of their mistakes. They don’t cover their mistakes up. They say mistakes are our friend. They try, fail, learn, and solve problems.

I think if they were to cover their mistakes up, if they were scolded while made a mistakes their capacity of solving problem would decrease. They would not risk making mistakes while trying to solve a problem.

3. Lessons from making mistakes:

Best lessons of our life often come from doing. By making mistakes we do learn things that otherwise remain as mystery to us. Unless we make it, do it by ourselves we can't comprehend it. Without jumping into water you can’t learn swimming.

Final thoughts

While you hide your mistake you focus more on hiding it instead of looking into lessons it pose at you. You get busy in covering it up instead of trying to getting the juice out of it. It inspires an organization wide vicious circle of hiding mistakes and inaction. Juniors hide mistakes from seniors, seniors from boss, boss from directors. Through out the process it leaves thousands of problems and loops unsolved. And while all of it takes in at once it becomes impossible to tackle. The problem with hiding our mistakes is not only that we don’t learn anything but also it is disastrous at the end. 

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Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at

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