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It’s OK to make great mistakes

by The NonProfit Times - August 19, 2013

Modern life often does not give us much time to learn from our mistakes. The 24-hour news cycle in combination with the urge to point fingers and dramatize problems creates an impulse to dodge blame and “move on” as quickly as possible.

That can be a mistake. It isn’t easy to relive bad situations, but still it is possible to move ahead after having really learned something.

In her book “A Random Book About the Power of Anyone” Talia Y. Leman discusses making great mistakes. As Leman points out, some of the world’s most popular inventions were prefaced by the word “Oops!” Leman’s advice on making a mistake great:

  • Don’t throw it away. The Post-It came about when a researcher was unable to make a strong adhesive.
  • Retrace your steps. The first artificial sweetener resulted from a chemist going back to look at what he had been testing.
  • Substitute an ingredient. Chocolate chip cookies came into being when baker’s chocolate was unavailable.
  • See what else it can do. The Slinky was the result of work on a meter designed to measure power in naval ships.
  • Take it further. Potato chips exist because of a chef’s efforts to satisfy a customer who wanted his potatoes crisper and thinner.
  • Be curious. The microwave oven came about because of work on radar with a vacuum tube.


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