Learning from mistakes

We’ve all made mistakes, but it’s how and what you learn from them that really matters. The joy of operating in the business world, or serving any industry sector for that matter, is that the mistakes you make can actually propel you and your ambitions forward. As a society, we’re quick to point out the mistakes that some of the highest profile business people and organisations make. We’re not often quick about applauding recovery, either.

Even the most experienced make mistakes

From Microsoft boss Bill Gates to our very own millionaire business tycoon Sir Alan Sugar, it seems no one is immune. Mistakes happen to the best of us, and looking at the mistakes our fellow business professionals have made and not judging them but analysing what they did next can help you take a positive step in the right direction if you’ve got something wrong in your own professional life.

Take Sir Alan Sugar, for example. He recently highlighted a number of business decisions that didn’t work out so well in this blog post for Gentleman’s Journal. In another article, this time for RadioTimes, Sir Alan spoke in greater detail about his worst mistake:

“My big mistake was not recognising that the early successes were not representative of the way markets normally go. When you make a word processor [Amstrad introduced their first mass-market home computer in 1984] and bring it into the marketplace, and you look at the statistics and the market says only 20,000 a year of these things are selling, and suddenly you start selling 25,000 a month, and you sell 300,000 pieces in a year, you go on to believe that every single product you sell is going to do the same. When I brought out my equivalent of the iPad [the Amstrad PenPad, launched in 1993], we manufactured 200,000 of them straight away – but the market was about 1,000. So that was it, get rid of it. Are we going to develop the next model? No. Ditch it. Out. That was a mistake. And look what happened? Apple, BlackBerry…”

Picking yourself up again

As Sir Alan Sugar and other senior business leaders and managers will no doubt tell you, making a mistake is easy. It’s the picking yourself up again after getting things wrong that’s the hard part. Even if a mistake means you lose lots – whether that be financially or in terms of reputation – redirecting yourself and moving forward is possible with the right attitude and motivation.

No one likes failing, but making mistakes is crucial to being able to move forward on a more positive, productive and successful path. Responding to mistakes and learning from them defines the best professionals and entrepreneurs. Whether you’ve had to take this problem solving approach to rectify gaffes and blunders in your own business or have been fired as an employee and want to rise from the ashes in your job search, the wisdom learned from mistakes will ensure you hone the qualities and develop the skills you need to come back fighting.

After making a mistake, be curious, not angry, about what went wrong. You could learn more from your failures than your successes. Or as Bill Gates puts it “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”