“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” – Tom Watson, founder of IBM
A budding entrepreneur asks, “What are some of your favorite tools that you use to help you run Queensboro?”
There are a ton of very important tools we use to run Queensboro. Many are so ingrained into our day we don’t even think about them anymore. Without even getting into our technology infrastructure that runs our website and internal order processing system, e-mail, Excel, Word, and Slack are all tools that it feels like we couldn’t function without.
One of my favorite tools, however, is one we built last year as part of our year-long goal to change the way we thought about mistakes. Our primary goal at Queensboro is to become a great company. For this to happen, our instinct to improve constantly must be as ingrained in us as breathing. To improve constantly, we must be learning constantly. And to be learning constantly we need to aggressively seek out and recognize learning opportunities. In most places, learning opportunities are generally characterized as “mistakes”.
Mistakes can be expensive, but how much more expensive are they when you don’t learn from them?
We call this new tool our Learning Opportunity Log (LOL), and we use it to log our mistakes, big and small. For the last half year or so, every other week our Leadership Team has gotten together and gone over entries in the log. Anyone can make an entry in the log, and the leaders are encouraged to do so. Some people are very good about making entries. Others do it very rarely. There is undoubtedly some deeper meaning there regarding who is, and who isn’t logging, but that is a subject for another blog post.
Our conversations around the posts have been very interesting and productive. They have led to many specific changes and some good general awareness of vulnerable areas. Postings that often appear to be individual, “human error” mistakes, on deeper analysis often end up being system flaws. Sometimes what appears to be a system flaw is just a case of lack of appropriate oversight or ownership of a process.
Addressing mistakes clearly helps us to improve. The hardest work here, though, is recognizing mistakes and getting good entries posted. We are working on that, but I don’t feel we are that good at it yet. I am going to have to discuss this challenge with some of my Behavioral Science friends to see if there are some “nudges” we can devise to help achieve better results here.
If we really got excited about identifying learning opportunities – if we truly learned to love our mistakes, I think we would improve faster and enjoy the process of improving more.
Changing our mindset about how we felt about mistakes was one of our three primary goals for 2018. The Learning Opportunity Log was a great tool to help with this desired change. I think conceiving and implementing it in 2018 was a big win for us (we also like to log “wins” as well).
As we have moved well into the planning process for 2019, however, we have focused on some other things and I believe we haven’t really accomplished the main goal. Our entries are not consistent, and while we have had some great discussions and commitment to the concept, we really haven’t embraced the concept of learning to love our mistakes.
We do have a great tool in place to keep us focused on it, though. Eli, our Screen Print manager, has volunteered to “own” the Learning Opportunity Log for 2019 and the team will be relying on him heavily to make sure it doesn’t fade away to irrelevance. I can see it would be very easy for that to happen.
I think that would be a big mistake!
Tom Watson, the founder of IBM, was renowned for being an innovative strategist and manager. There is a story about the early days in the company, when one of his young engineers came into his office to apologize for a mistake he had just made. A mistake which had cost the company $100,000, a huge sum at the time. He offered his immediate resignation to which Watson responded, “What do you mean resign? I just spent $100,000 educating you!”
We should all survive our mistakes so well!