A few years ago, I asked the new CEO of a fashion group what his first steps in his new position would be. His answer was: “If everything stays as it is, then I will have achieved my goal”. Right then, I found this response very disconcerting, and today I know that this company has filed for insolvency and lost its market leadership. The aforementioned managing director sees himself as a victim because, from his point of view, he has not made any demonstrable mistakes. The fact that he could be partly responsible for hundreds of redundancies does not occur to him.
This example shows how important a positive error culture is in companies. It is about dealing with wrong decisions, failures, mistakes, and failures. Wherever people work, mistakes are made. That’s what makes us human. We are not impeccable robots. Processes are becoming increasingly complex in our fast-paced and digitized work environment, and errors are almost unavoidable. This makes the concept of a positive error culture even more valuable for sustainable companies. They have recognized that failures offer opportunities that everyone can grow from.
In 2019, a study by the Boston Consulting Group showed that nine out of 10 executives tend to be hesitant in their decision-making. What is it about leaders that makes them so afraid to act? “Very few leaders dare to take responsibility. The fear of doing something wrong is enormous. At the same time, many companies claim to have a positive error culture, but this is not lived,” is the sad experience of Johanna Dahm, successful organizational developer, and management consultant. The question arises as to whether replacing entire management teams is a solution. However, scientific findings show that it takes four generations of managers for a system change to be permanent. That is why it is essential to change systems in companies in small steps. And for this, a positive failure culture offers an excellent opportunity for everyone as well as for the entire company. Today, creating a new and sustainable corporate culture is an urgent task for managers in all positions. A culture in which the courage to make mistakes is promoted. “Because a lack of courage, and thus a lack of decisiveness, means that important projects are never tackled or not completed. A lack of decisiveness also leads to high levels of demotivation throughout the workforce, as their initiatives are not considered and nothing moves forward in their company,” according to Johanna Dahm.
Innovation is only viable when employees are empowered to take risks and try new approaches. A healthy error culture fosters a continuous learning environment in which employees are given the space to recognize their mistakes, analyze them, learn from them, and improve their skills. When employees feel safe, even when they make mistakes, their willingness to engage and take responsibility for their work increases. A culture that accepts mistakes and promotes open communication creates an atmosphere in which team members feel encouraged to share their ideas as well as concerns. This leads to better collaboration and the ability to learn from each other’s mistakes. Similarly, a good failure culture helps to respond quickly and effectively to customer complaints and feedback. When employees can recognize and understand mistakes, they are more likely to be transparent and honest with customers, which can lead to greater trust and loyalty.
What has just been said can be wonderfully transferred to the Tango Argentino. Here there are basically no mistakes. If the other person interprets an impulse differently or makes a step that was not guided in this way, then it becomes really exciting. Because now creativity and flexibility are required. How do I deal with this new situation? Do I simply leave my counterpart standing there? Do I react with anger and sanctions so that my counterpart loses the desire to try something new? Do I give up courage and trust in myself and in the joint interaction? Or do I react with humor and make a move to re-capture the partner and save the situation? In either case, humor is a brilliant way to foster a culture of error and trust. Whether it’s dancing the tango or working together, shared laughter fosters innovation, desire, and passion.
There is a German saying: “To err is human”. We make mistakes every day, sometimes big, sometimes small, sometimes consciously, often unconsciously. Try not to see them as failures, but as a great learning opportunity. We are socialized not to make mistakes. We don’t like to take risks and are reluctant to leave our comfort zone. But our failures are signposts for our learning and growth as people or as a company.