"While few companies are willing to commit to a course that looks like an error, the power of intentionally taking the wrong road can be seen in the high payoffs that have come from strategies that initially seemed like mistakes."
So say Paul J.H. Schoemaker and Robert E. Gunther in "The Wisdom of Deliberate Mistakes," an article that appeared in the June 2006 issue of the Harvard Business review
One such example of mistakes-on-purpose-being-helpful came courtesy of the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Mandated by Congress to build robotic, non-remote controlled, ground vehicles, they responded by sponsoring an unmanned-vehicle race, offering $1million to the winner. Purposefully engaging amateurs and university students in Pentagon matters? What, were they crazy?
No one won the race, but the 'losers' helped DARPA identify no less than 13 fatal design flaws that could now be avoided in their own design efforts.
But how can we decide which mistakes are smart
ones to make and which ones are just plain dumb
? The authors offer these insights:
- Identify underlying assumptions - focus on assumptions that are core to the issue.
- Select specific assumptions for testing - focus on the ones where you'd do things differently if you know these assumptions were false.
- Rank the assumptions - look for where the potential gains greatly outweigh their costs.
- Create your strategy - craft a meaningful mistake for the highest ranked assumptions.
- Execute the mistake.
- Learn from the process.
Admittedly, the authors acknowledge that mistakes made on purpose
like this aren't really mistakes as much as experimentation
. But I still like the idea. My 'tweak' would be to get real clear - in advance of the experiment - how you will 'mop up'
the mess in the even that the 'mistake'
That way, you can jump into your mistake-making with both feet without worry and better focus your attention on learning what's to learn.
Labels: Success at Work