Innovation and mistakes

People love to blame others when something goes wrong. When a mistake is made, many leap in wanting to know who the idiot was that did something wrong. Yet mistakes are how we learn… and continuously improve. And from continuous improvement we can get innovation.

Lessons to achieve continuous improvement and innovation:

Be brave – evaluate and learn
Try it out. If it doesn’t work, that’s okay, you’ve done a test, an experiment. Then try the next option. Some of it might work, then you modify, improve and you try it again with changes. Be open to the fact that the idea you started off with initially may not look anything like it by the time you actually implement it.

Learn from failures. Many businesses do encourage staff to go out and try different things and if you do make a mistake that’s fine because you learn more from mistakes than you do from the things that you do right. Learning from failures and mistakes is how we all learn and how businesses learn.

Just in time training
Would you ever congratulate someone for making a mistake? I have.

Some mistakes are perfect learning opportunities for the rest of the team. Of course, it depends on the scale and impact of the mistake. But if mistakes are built into regular team meetings with this strategy – they turn into great opportunities for learning.

Continuous improvement is on the agenda each team meeting. Any person that has a suggestion for improvement or has made a mistake runs the segment or contributes. If it is a mistake – here is a way to process it:

1. Describe the problem/mistake made.
2. Establish the impact on the business:
a. Unhappy and complaining clients? The client takes business elsewhere?
b. Cost (eg. reprinting brochures because of a typo)?
c. The team were upset
d. Someone was hurt?
e. A deadline was missed?
3. Managing problem – What did the person do at the time to rectify the problem?
a. Apologise?
b. Redo, repair, change?
c. Communicate with others?
4. Future improvements – this is where we make the best changes. Ask: “What can we do to ensure this will never happen again?” “How can we streamline our process and ensure safety, efficiency, cost effectiveness, etc?”
5. How does your team manage mistakes? Is there a better way – how?

Inspire suggestions and questions from all stakeholders
Innovation and continuous improvement is vital for the future of a successful organisation. Inspire everyone to be creative, offer suggestions and make improvements:

  • Identity opportunities to improve

– Ask clients
– Talk to team
– Survey staff
– Conduct exit interviews

  • Develop new ideas

– Brainstorm ideas
– Use think tanks

  • Replicate others’ success

– What are the benefits of looking at successes of other businesses and organisations? How can their strategies be a guide for improvement in your workplace?

  • Implement new initiatives – see how they go.

Program and reward
Create a focus in the business on innovation and continuous improvement.

Build it is as a focus of feedback and appraisals. Reward new and exciting ideas that people contribute – whether it be staff or customers. How should improvements and innovation be acknowledged and celebrated in your workplace?

How can staff be encouraged to try new ideas or practices?

Empower people at all levels to make suggestions for improvement. Develop a culture of implementing and supporting change and improvements.

Review the current innovation practices of the organisation with any group of stakeholders.

There are so many exciting ways to ensure innovation and improvement are ongoing:

  • Innovation teams
  • Quality committees
  • Workshops and seminars
  • Lectures and debates
  • Mentoring sessions
  • Coaching one-on-one or in small groups
  • Induction strategies
  • DVDs, streaming and online learning
  • Cross-team planning sessions
  • Climate surveys and focus groups.

Eve Ash has produced a best selling DVD Innovation & Continuous Improvement that explores strategies used by some best practice organisations in Australia. Try some creative brainstorming techniques, or look at the blocks to innovation or any number of DVDs to motivate and inspire your people.


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