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Senior Correspondent

Mistakes make you feel dumb, even though they are the path to wisdom. Few things change us more than mistakes. Not making mistakes is worse than making them.

Sometimes the best way to
move forward is looking back.

Rather than ignoring mistakes, relive them.

I asked, Irv Rothman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard Financial Services, about making mistakes. He said, “We lost a big account last year.” Irv explained how he sat down with the team who lost the account and went back through the decision-making process looking for things they could have done differently.

Learning from mistakes means:

  1. Reliving them.
  2. Uncovering shortfalls.
  3. Determining alternatives.
  4. Moving forward.

10 Reasons mistakes happen:

  1. Please others while ignoring your gut.
  2. Confusing instructions.
  3. Listening to the wrong people. Listen to those with experience. Additionally: Listen to those who have power to reward, punish, and make decisions.
  4. The “wrong” people are assigned to teams and tasks.
  5. Quick reactions.
  6. People are tired, overworked, or over-stressed.
  7. Acting on your own without seek advice.
  8. Confidence surpasses competence – arrogance.
  9. Rushing.
  10. Lack of training.



It’s one thing to accept that mistakes happen. It’s another to suggest they don’t matter. Repeating the same mistake over and over is a mistake.

7 more ways to learn from mistakes:

  1. Own them. “I screwed up,” takes you further than, “It’s your fault.”
  2. Publicly declare them. Hiding mistakes inspires self-protective cultures. Declaring, even celebrating mistakes, instills confidence. Top leadership must lead the way when it comes to publicly declaring mistakes.
  3. Determine causes.
  4. Reject defensiveness. Amy Jones
  5. Create alternatives.
  6. Teach others what you wish you would have done. Marlene Chism
  7. Learn from the mistakes of others. David Frick


Recommended reading: “Out Executing the Competition” by Irv Rothman

What mistake-making advice can you add?

What whoppers have you learned from?

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