Do your employees dare to make mistakes?

The holidays are over, and so is the World Cup. To the grief of others and to the joy of others. I myself watched this summer's big sports event on thick TV in the Namibian countryside and was reminded again of how grateful the football is, in the bridge between cultures.

Just like my colleague Jesper previously did so I also thought to share some thoughts where sports can help put our finger on challenges we face in working life. This summer's championship offered a lot of penalty kicks, and it is precisely at the psychological game behind these that I intended to maintain myself in this blog post.

In a penalty shootout, it is often so clear which players reach the penalty point with the fear of losing on the retina, and which ones make the opportunity to make an impression in the history books. Perhaps the clearest examples of the latter are Andrea Pirlo's magical punishment from the European Championships 2012 where he waits coldly until the goalkeeper settles down to just chip in the ball in the middle of the goal. For those who are interested in ice hockey is good Peter "Foppa" Forsberg's penalty from Lillehammer Olympics a brilliant example of something similar. Where it is with the insecure offenders, the anxiety and fear of becoming a scapegoat that governs showed Pirlo and Foppa with both body language and acting that they feel completely comfortable in the moment and any concerns were overshadowed by their conviction and desire to become a hero.

So what does all this have to do with management consulting?

Well, I feel that in too many businesses, it is precisely the fear of making mistakes that too much control the operation and the actions of its employees. Delivering what can be described in advance and which is explicitly expected of you is more rewarded than delivering the unseen, creating creative solutions or coming up with unpleasant truths.

The fear of making mistakes also controls the ability and acceptance to try new ways. More and more research indicates that an innovative business is promoted by the opportunity to test, both in the development of new products and services as well as the organization itself. Whether it is about promoting the use of prototypes to visualize ideas early, to share their immature thoughts and ideas early in a development project, or to test new management principles, there must be a high acceptance of small errors. and initial thought casts. If the infallible is always strived for, the creative ability is stifled and the innovative climate is suffocated by a wet blanket of umbilical scissors.

Unfortunately, I find that in too many places it is precisely this negative climate that prevails, which obviously hinders the creative ability of both the individual employee and the business at large. The next time you as a manager ask yourself the question why you feel that fewer and fewer new ideas come from your own business, you should ask yourself how you are actively working to counter the inherited unwillingness to stand out and instead create a climate where the employee feels safe in failing.

Without leaders like Ceasare Prandelli or Curre Lundström, who created an environment where the unexpected is premiered and failure is just a stop on the road to success, the world would have been robbed of some of the most memorable sports moments and innovative sporting achievements.

Therefore, every organization and leader should periodically ask the question: What governs actually my business?

The fear of failure, or the courage and desire to create something better?

EDIT: A few days after this blog post, Svenska Dagbladet published a very well written debate article on the same topic. The article is authored by Mats Alvesson, organizational and management researcher at Lund University who focuses on how the fear of making mistakes often prevents businesses from doing anything at all. Very readable!