How to Learn from Mistakes and Grow from Failure

Discover how you can learn from your mistakes and create a learning culture out of it.

Failure is inevitable. A failed strategy, an investment gone awry, a late realization are a part and parcel of running a business, managing business operations or routine work. What matters is what you take away from failure and how you deal with your mistakes.

Why tune in and learn from mistakes?

Mistakes are teachable moments. They reveal something about you, someone else or the organization you work for. When you pause and ponder over an undesirable outcome, you begin to see things in a new light. What you learn in those moments carry value for a lifetime. They help you avoid traps in the future.

Leaning into failure removes the stigma associated with failing. Welcoming learning moments creates psychological safety and builds trust within teams and between team members and managers. Distancing yourself from failure only increases the fear of making mistakes. It decreases the opportunities to glean insights needed to avoid repeating your mistakes.

Learning from mistakes at work offers another advantage: it sparks new ideas and creative thinking. This is valuable for innovation, which is based on taking risks and accepting the possibility of making mistakes. A total learning experience is possible only when teams embrace both success and failure. A meticulous analysis of why you failed can lead you to new paths for success and improvement.

What can you do to learn from your mistakes and grow?

There is no one approach to turning mistakes into valuable business lessons. One of the logical, systematic approaches to clarifying whatwent wrong and the fixes needed is outlined below.

1.     Review your business or financial goals. What have you set out to achieve? Are your goals realistic and measurable?

2.     Detail the results you've achieved so far. Separate the failed initiatives from the successful milestones and achievements.

3.     Identify, and where possible, quantify the targets missed, discrepancies in results, and deviations from expectations.

4.     Make a list of the mistakes that resulted in missed targets, discrepancies and deviations. You can express it in terms of 'X' caused 'Y'.

5.     Specify the takeaways and lessons learned. You may not have all the answers at this stage, but you will have a clear idea of what didn't work.

6.     Refer to historical performance data. Are there patterns of miscalculations or errors of judgment that have impacted initiatives?

7.     Determine what needs to change to prevent committing similar mistakes. Follow-up by implementing suitable changes and course corrections.

Taking stock of mistakes in order to make necessary changes proactively is one thing. Dwelling on your mistakes is a whole other thing.Mistakes are choices that led to failure. Once clarified, you can start making better choices. After determining the lessons, move away from the choices you made in the past.

Growing from failure

Don’t stop at reflecting on your choices. Learn from your mistakes and grow – here’s why.

To gain an appreciation of the finer details

Careless errors are easily fixable. Errors of judgement, which can prove more costly to your team or organization, require some amount of reflection. There are multiple reasons, ranging from implicit bias to leaving out the details or nuances of an issue.

Overcoming bias is a matter of identifying your blind spots and making mindful choices. The instinct to make decisions without a full understanding of an issue can be addressed by reminding yourself to consider the most minute of details at the beginning. This will reduce the likelihood of failure. You also won’t have to deal with fixing a bigger problem when everything goes out of hand.

To reinforce the spirit of innovation

Mistakes are common on the path to innovation. Loathing and fearing mistakes is a terrible idea because most start-ups fail due to a lack of innovation!

Successful innovation requires an open mind to sharing data, learning new things, and applying that knowledge to problem-solving.Acquisition of knowledge is contingent on the level of training support your organization provides employees. If this is the financial domain – such as increasing employees’ financial awareness – you must provide appropriate training resources and tools. New financial training approaches such as experiential learning actively involve your employees in the learning process, not only imparting knowledge but also providing them opportunities to reflect on and learn from mistakes. You can also consider using BALINCA to minimize errors that are mostly caused by alack of financial knowledge.

To deal with inertia in teams

Sometimes, teams may hesitate to own up to mistakes out of afear of being reprimanded. Or they may hesitate from communicating their training needs. Consequently, their knowledge gaps are discovered only at al ater stage and in that time, many opportunities for learning from mistakes will have been squandered.

Fostering a culture that in which people feel empowered to admit and learn from mistakes can create more enthusiasm among them to plug their knowledge gaps. For example, the problems with a team or business unit that has been underperforming for two quarters may be a result of weak financial management.You can ensure that team members or managers have a good handle on financial information so as to make better spending choices or recognize the impact of their efforts or innovation on the organization’s financial performance.

Establish a learning culture  

A constructive corporate culture provides a conducive environment for employees to learn from mistakes and grow. It equips employees with the know-how and tools to effectively detect and analyze failure. At the same time, it provides training and mentoring that update employees’ knowledge and challenges their critical thinking. It’s never too late to think about whether your organizational culture encourages people to learn from failures – and do something about it.