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Do We Learn More From Mistakes Or Success?

Written by: Serena Martino, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


If you are a busy leader, it's easy to spend a lot of time “fixing” things and falling into the trap of focusing only on mistakes and what you can learn from them. While it's important to learn from our mistakes, it's equally important to learn from our successes.

Two middle age business workers working together with smile on face hand giving high five at the office

We are going to explore the question of whether we learn more from mistakes or success, and why it's important to focus on both.

I never lose. I either win or learn – Nelson Mandela

Learning from Mistakes

Mistakes can be powerful opportunities for growth and improvement. Embracing the PDCA model (Plan, Do, Check, Act) in most processes will help to learn from mistakes. This model involves planning a course of action, carrying out that plan, checking the results, and taking action to improve the plan based on what was learned.

For example, let's say a team leader implements a new process for managing project timelines. After a few weeks, they realize that the process is causing delays and confusion. By using this framework, the leader can analyze what went wrong, identify the root cause of the problem, and make changes to the process to prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future.

It's important to take responsibility for mistakes and avoid playing the blame game. When we take ownership of our mistakes, we create a culture of accountability and continuous improvement. Encouraging team members to learn from their mistakes and supporting them in the process can also foster growth and development.

Learning from Success

While mistakes can be powerful learning opportunities, it's also important to learn from successes. When we analyze our successes, we can identify what worked well and why. This can help us build on our strengths and replicate success in other areas.

For example, let's say a team completes a project ahead of schedule and under budget. This can often go unnoticed, or at most getting a quick pat on each other’s back.

By analyzing what went well, we can identify the factors that contributed to the success, such as effective communication and collaboration. We can then replicate these factors in future projects to increase the likelihood of success.

Unfortunately, successes are often dismissed as people "just doing their job." This can lead to a lack of recognition and celebration for successes, which can be demotivating for team members. By acknowledging and celebrating successes, we can create a positive culture that encourages growth and development.

Reflection and celebration are important components of both learnings from mistakes and from success.

Taking time to reflect on our experiences can help us identify areas for improvement and opportunities for growth. This can be done through individual reflection, team debriefs, or formal post-mortem reviews.

Celebrating successes and lessons learned from mistakes can also be a powerful motivator for teams. This can be done through team parties, recognition programs, or simply taking time to acknowledge individual and team achievements. By celebrating wins, we create a positive and supportive culture that encourages continued growth and development.

By fostering a culture of reflection and celebration, leaders can create a culture of growth and continuous improvement within their teams. By prioritizing both learning from mistakes and learning from success, leaders can build strong and successful teams that are capable of overcoming challenges and achieving their goals.

Be kind to yourself: allow yourself to experiment, fail and try again. If you need a partner to help you with the process you are welcome to reach out to me via LinkedIn or my website.


Serena Martino, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Serena Martino is an Executive and Business Coach (ACC with ICF) with abundant Leadership experience both in Corporate and Startup environments, with a focus on Tech, eCommerce, and Travel. Having worked in 6 different countries and with teams around the World, she understands cultural diversity and the complex dynamics of scaling internationally. She works with leaders at all levels: her approach is allowing to find the best solution through self-reflection, combined with practical tools from her direct experience in the field. She coaches people through their businesses, empowering teams and individuals to grow with a clear direction. Her mission is to put people at the center of every company.



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