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Why it’s okay to make mistakes at work

March 31, 2015, 5:30 PM UTC
Photograph by Peter Holst

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What’s the best mistake you ever made?” is written by Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO of BroadbandTV.

Every business, every employee, and every leader fails at some point in their career, but the difference between a success and a failure is what you learn. Mistakes are a valuable resource that should never be overlooked — here’s why:

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – seriously
As an entrepreneur I try to look at every mistake as a lesson. I want to understand why the mistake was made and how I can avoid making the same one in the future. More importantly, I want to understand how that mistake has changed or affected my business. Whether it’s a significant error in judgment or a minor oversight, I try to find value in the outcome.

For example, when I founded BroadbandTV we began our operations in the over-the-top content, an early version of set-top boxes like Roku or Apple TV. However, YouTube was created shortly after we began operating in this market and a massive new opportunity reared its head. So, we changed our business plan and pivoted to where the opportunity was. This was among the first of what I now call “quick failures” for the business. Although OTT appeared to be the best option at the time, we had to adapt as the industry changed in order to scale our success.

Incorporate mistakes into your business model
This mentality isn’t just for the decision-makers of a business; valuing the insights that mistakes can offer should be at the core of every team member. Culturally, teams need to feel comfortable learning from the mistakes they will inevitably make, and even encouraged to share the outcomes as they relate to the wider company. There’s a reason why trial and error has lasted so long — if we never made mistakes we would never find what works.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What’s the best mistake you ever made?

Why this CEO dropped out of business school to open a pizza shop by Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite.

My best career mistake: Not asking for help by Sandhya Venkatachalam, partner and co-founder of Centerview Capital.

My best career mistake: quitting my job for love by David Reese, vice president of people and culture at Medallia.

From rags to riches: What one CEO learned from his biggest mistake by Ryan Smith, CEO and founder of Qualtrics.

Does the perfect employee really exist? by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.

Confessions of a startup founder: What I learned from my $5K mistake by Sunil Rajaraman, Co-Founder,

How to fail (wisely) by David DeWolf, CEO and President of 3Pillar Global.

How to make the most of your mistakes by Tough Mudder CEO Will Dean.

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