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Creating a Safe Place to fail : How Corporates can reward failures

The prejudice towards the word “mistake” is astounding when it comes to workplace ethics. What about the tales of Try, Try until you succeed that we have heard since childhood. The line stays in your mind but the concept becomes a blur. Mainly because as you progress through real-life scenarios, your perspective towards “Trying Things” boils down to “Try Things I Know”

When you live to see the day, everybody wants to tell the great stories of victory. But behind every great story is a fraction of time that changes the victor and who gets the spoils. That fraction is a bend in time that leads to events bearing outcomes no one can fathom.

A serious invention like a Pacemaker was a result of an Electrical Engineer’s mistake, not even a Biomedical Engineer. In an article by Business Insider, we come across many such inventions that have become a part of our everyday lives but a chink in the armor is- those were not intended!

Creating success-led stories as a testament to organizational efficiency gives birth to a risk-averse attitude. This creates a vicious cycle where any employee will actively dedicate their efforts to giving the best possible results without any mistakes. Hence, the creation of a high-functioning pressurized environment. People will prefer working in a bubble instead of making mistakes. This reduces employee productivity, ergo, decreasing organizational efficiency.

If team openness, inclusion, and collaboration are essential elements of effective team building then so is being open-minded to mistakes as a part of this rapport-building process. If Newton wouldn’t have been silly enough to pay attention to an apple falling from the tree- we might still be calling the gravitational force an apple or a jackhammer that regulates the earth!

Inculcating a behavior to be able to make mistakes, gives room for innovation to take place.

The psychological phenomenon of positive reinforcement helps inculcate any behavioral pattern as a result of rewarding or beneficial stimuli. If employees are motivated to try new things and try out of the box thoughts by sitting inside a box- their cubicles - they might, actually, move pieces.

Here are a few examples of creating a haven to make mistakes:

  1. An Honor Board of Mistakes

While an Honours Board is always stereotyped to bear the names of exceptional winners and success stories, replacing those names and lists wouldn’t be so bad. To create an Honours Board where mistakes are recorded whenever an employee inputs an inaccurate code or makes a wrong marketing move. This will not just take the pressure away of making a mistake but it will also create a list that is to be followed to not make similar ones in the future. Employees will follow in the footsteps but with better soles and walk on finer roads.

  1. Ting! Ting! Ting! Mistakes Bells all the way

If you are a small organization or a start-up, this could be an effective way of rewarding mistakes. Whenever an employee makes a mistake, they will ring the big bell situated at a conspicuous place. The ringing will inform all the other employees to applaud by clapping hands or hoots, whichever is preferable. This creates a positive atmosphere of being “okay”. Even in big organizations, you could have a relatively smaller bell allotted to your teams and follow the same method.

  1. Cheers to that Team Meets

Every week or month, your team lead asks you to brief them about your successful KPIs that you couldn’t achieve or a plan for the next quarter which is no different than the previous one. Funny or not, these meetings can be effective on one hand and it can be excruciating on the other. To help reduce the overwhelming situation, a separate time is to be set aside to discuss the mistakes followed by a toast with preferable drinks allowed at a workplace. This silly act of cheering mistakes also reduces that boardroom anxiety.

As we have established that a fear-based approach doesn’t only taint employee productivity. Instead, celebrating them can create a productive, people-first environment. The real win is when an organization learns to leverage the very same mistakes. It might sound like wishful thinking without the following example:

Gitlab is a company that provides DevOps software that combines the ability of multiple software in a single application. In 2017, they lost six hours of database data which is 10-12 days equivalent to compiling a report and creating a presentation. This happened when a developer was trying to make a change in the upcoming release. For a sizable organization like Gitlab, its reputation amongst its stakeholders was also at risk. Instead of trying to sweep the mistake under the carpet, they took the entire process of recovering data online. While all of the data couldn’t be recovered, it all happened in real-time through their social channels. In the end, a little humor never hurt anybody. As the same developer Yorick Peterse tweeted, “If you have problems with your database not scaling due to too much data, I can probably help you :troll:” Their ability to manage the crisis was applauded which led to a dedicated page on their official website as a case study (Honours Board, much?).

A company never benefits with “Off with their Heads” like that of Red Queen in Alice In Wonderland. It didn’t work for her reign, it won’t work for your organization.

If the Incy Wincy Spider does not try and go up the water spout then the rain will wash the spider away for good. A good resource to your company might not live up to their potential if they don’t feel safe enough to be innovative and make mistakes. If failure is the stepping stone to success then employee failure is just another step to corporate innovation.

BHyve enables that haven by providing a platform where employees can ask questions, help peers, and collaborate. This helps them contribute real value reinforcing a positive validation and improved productivity. To build that, visit for more information and methods to help walk the success avenue that comes right after it crosses the street of mistakes.

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