When a Mistake Becomes a Breakthrough

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When a Mistake Becomes a Breakthrough

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People worry a lot about making mistakes. It seems natural we want to make the correct decision. We want to avoid more cost, harsh repercussions, and disappointment. Mistakes aren’t always the end of the line though. Sometimes a mistake becomes a breakthrough.

Making Mistakes

It is often said that a mistake is not bad when you learn from it. Of course, that is reasonable advice and certainly adds value to what may seem really bad at the moment.

Innovation and growth often happen by mistake. Sometimes amazing breakthroughs will develop. It happened with penicillin, sildenafil (Viagra), and minoxidil (Rogaine). They were a big mistake, until they weren’t.

There is no doubt that mistakes can be costly. It is true in nearly any field, but not all mistakes will mean that it is over.

No Variance

Many times, we are taught that we must perfect the process. We need to get to the slightest variation, live and work within minimal and maximal tolerances, and once we produce the desired result, lock it in.

This all seems logical. It seems to make sense, until it doesn’t. It stops making sense when businesses and organizations decide that they need change.

When change is called for the logic is in danger. Now the exact ideology, the focus, the culture that exists around perfection is expected to shift gears and change. Even the concept of continuous improvement is more often about a focus on perfection, not change.

Becomes a Breakthrough

Often the forces driving perfection cause the most struggle. The idea to make something great is counterintuitive to making something new. Concepts of no failure, minimal waste, and fewer resources always make sense, until they don’t.

If you’re going to learn to ride the bike, you might fall. If you swing at the ball, you might miss. The exact project that you are working on might be riddled with errors. That error, that mistake you are worried about, it may be a breakdown, but it may also become a breakthrough.

The difference between the destination that you seek and the place that you arrive may become the best mistake you’ll ever make.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours!, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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