Mistakes are a riddle of the business world, a problem that continuously defies the type-A urge to measure and control. As we recently reported, psychologists say, that stressing out about mistakes can actually cause you to make more, while creativity experts argue that without risk and failure there can be no innovation.
Lots of experts may be deepening our knowledge of the role mistakes play in creativity, but the basic concept is far from new. Peter Drucker wrote plenty about the value of failing, but for those look for the shorter, funnier route to the essence of this idea, your best bet may be to spend a half hour watching comedian John Cleese's classic speech explaining his great affection for guided missiles. (HT to Compensation Cafe.)
A video of a complete early version of the speech is here (and absolutely worth the time) but if you're looking for a preview of what you're getting into, just read this partial transcript of Cleese's explanation of his guided missile fixation, helpfully provided by a blogger who heard the speech in 2007:
Even as a very small child, these lovely creatures enchanted me far more than stories of catatonic princesses and talking vermin. Probably, because the very first nursery story that my mother ever read me was called "Gordon the Guided Missile." And this is why the guided missile found this very, very special, very warm place in my heart.
You see, Gordon sets off in pursuit of his target and immediately sends out a signal to discover if he is on course to hit that target. The signal comes back, "No, you're not on course, Gordon. Change it up a bit and slightly to the left." And Gordon changes course, as instructed, and then he sends out another signal, "Am I on course now?" And back comes the answer, "No. Adjust your course down a bit and slightly further to the left." And so he adjusts his course again. And, conscientious little fellow that he is, he sends out another request, "How am I doing now?" And back comes the answer, "Gordon, you've still got it wrong. Down more and a foot to the right."
And the guided missile, its rationality and persistence a lesson to us all, goes on and on, making mistakes, and on and on listening for feedback, and on and on correcting its behavior, until it blows up the nasty enemy thing. And then we applaud Gordon.
And some critic says, "Well, he made hundreds of mistakes, didn't he?"
Yes, but that didn't matter did it? Because all of his mistakes were corrected, and so Gordon succeeded in avoiding the one mistake that really matters: missing the target.Read More on BNET:
- John Cleese: Busyness Is the Enemy of Creativity
- Stop Worrying About Mistakes and You'll Make Fewer
- 10 Ways Failure Leads to Success