The Power of Making Strategically Intelligent Mistakes

Once in a great while, a phrase comes along that immediately sparks a thousand thoughts in your head.  It does’t matter if the thoughts are even relevant to the context in which you heard the phrase, the thoughts are there.  Clearly my written English will give this poor justice, and as my Sister is always kind enough to point out; I’ve never met a grammatical error I didn’t like.

Unfortunately the phrase ‘strategically intelligent mistakes‘ is not mine, it’s Accenture’s, but was brought to my attention in a pending article by Peter Livingstone, a Publisher at Financier Worldwide. I will be ‘advertising’ this article when it comes out so that my enormous following can enjoy it.  I’m fairly sure my 18 subscribers will make all the difference to its success.

Accenture’s context is; “Some companies have recognized that they can allow innovation teams to make strategically intelligent mistakes within a clearly understood governance framework. This, in turn, enables a culture that not only tolerates risk but also embraces failure as an integral part of the innovation process.

Which is perfect for the purposes of this blog, (and my last one on Why Everyone Should Start a Business) because it’s very much the thought of failure that prevents so many good ideas from becoming reality, or causes thoughts to die on the vine. That, and having no idea where to start, but that’s blodder for another time.

Whether the idea is for a start-up, a new service line, or an improvement on something that already exists, fear of failure / ridicule / loss of respect, or any number of fear-based de-motivators prevent those ideas from being freely expressed. The only truly bad idea in business is one that never see’s the light of day. Sure, it might fail, fail spectacularly even, but no-one has just one idea, so the next one will have the benefit of experience for the creator, and everyone around them.

Thomas Edison, arguably the most famous inventor in recent history, failed over 3,000 times to invent the lightbulb (though he certainly didn’t phrase it that way).  My favourite quote of his; “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

You do not have to be an entrepreneur and start your own business to make a significant impact with your ideas, there are plenty of examples of an ordinary individuals’ idea making significant positive impact on an organisation. It is the CEO who ultimately holds the key to how ideas are received, and whether or not his/her people feel as though their ideas are welcomed, regardless of the possible outcome.

A recurring theme in my blogs is; “Let’s be very clear; The CEO sets the tone for the entire company: its vision, its values, its direction, and its priorities.  If the organisation fails to achieve [enter goal here], it’s the CEOs’ fault, and no-one else’s.

In Accenture’s article, there is this wonderful paragraph; “For instance, a large advertising agency awards a quarterly Heroic Failure trophy to recognize clever, unproven ideas that may not work out in practice, but nevertheless demonstrate creative risk taking. And an online payroll provider offers $400 to the winner of its Best New Mistake award, which goes to an employee who made a mistake but learned from it—and, in doing so, helped other employees avoid similar mistakes. The idea behind both awards is to support creativity by encouraging openness about errors and rewarding those who genuinely learn from their failures.

Can you imagine working for an organisation that rewards and encourages you  regardless of your mistakes.  No, neither can I, but it’s a very pleasant thought isn’t it?


Update 14-Oct-13 15:09: My thanks to Jon Hawes for pointing me at this article;



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