Boss as CEGO-Chief Error Generation Officer. People learn ONLY from screwup-and-adjustment cycle; your role is to accelerate the process.
— Tom Peters (@tom_peters) March 18, 2012
Awesome tweet by Tom Peters. It reminded me of the movie K-19 Widowmaker.
There are a few scenes in the movie K-19 The Widowmaker, which stars Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, where Ford (the captain of the submarine) starts a number of drills to test the crew’s ability to execute under pressure. These drills, simulate situations that might go wrong. How about starting a fire in the crew’s sleeping quarters? How about shutting down the torpedo bay? How about jamming the sonar? All at once. What do you do?
The thinking goes, if you can test your edge, you can execute under extreme pressure.
This is what Tom Peters is referring to. Not someone who just wants to make people feel uncomfortable (although that’s true too) just for the heck of it, but a more strategic role of accelerating learning.
Accelerate Mistake Making
The goal of most businesses is to become efficient at what they do. This, as you know, brings a lot of benefits. And that’s ok. The problem with efficiency is that it leaves no room for error.
I think the role of CEGO is made a for one particular type of personality. The competitive type. The vast majority of people in this world are not competitive. When all goes well, people can get used to the way things are. They stop losing that edge. Us competitors, we live off that edge. This gets us into trouble for all the wrong reasons. We want to push for more, to test the untested, to go off the known path. But it is exactly this type of thinking that is needed for breakthroughs. It’s also the type of thinking that is needed in this fast paced and unpredictable business environment.
We are all encountering problems we haven’t seen before. The only certainty is mistakes will be made. So why not start making them instead of thinking we won’t make any? Let’s just accept it and start learning.
Of course, unlike the captain of a submarine, we are not at war. But we can simulate worst case scenarios and play game of ‘what if’ with our own businesses. The point is that it is necessary to keep people on edge and not let the daily rituals take over, because people will gladly let their routine brains do the thinking for them.
Our job is break this pattern consistently.
I can honestly tell you that I’m addicted to this type of thinking. Yes, addicted. And my role at Blu Maya, and anywhere else, is to accelerate mistake-making. To be more exact, smart mistakes. Not mistakes that are going to cost clients/us a fortune. But mistakes that will help us learn something we didn’t know yet.
It is a role most people do not feel comfortable in. It’s just not natural to stir the pot. But it is one of the most fun things you can do to stimulate creative thinking.
Ok, so how do you start accelerating mistake making?
- Do things the wrong way. Ask yourself: What if we did things wrong?
- Create a Brilliant Mistakes Award to stimulate Brilliant mistakes. Let people take risks, let them roll with an idea that doesn’t make sense.
- Stimulate worst case scenario thinking. Ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that could happen if we did this?
- Mess up someone’s daily ritual just because you want to see how they react. Yes, do this deliberately just for fun. This will tell a lot about the people you work with.
- Swap jobs with someone else and don’t follow their script. Don’t ask how do you do this, just do whatever comes to your mind.
Try all of these and you’ll see that there are learning opportunities everywhere. The most fun experiment is to make everyone swap jobs. That would be my setup move to get people ready for the more uncomfortable mistake-making activities.
Mistakes will be made. But learning will be nurtured. The question underlying this type of thinking is: How fast can we learn to adapt to situations that might happen?
This is a test of Leadership. Are you up to it?