grab bag blog

This is where I talk about my work, my discoveries, my creative process, and the ins and outs of marketing in the arts.

The Power of Mistakes

April 21, 2016

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A mistake is a sign of weakness in our culture. Whenever a popular figure screws up or says something wrong, they are vilified and shamed. When we make mistakes in the workplace, customers get mad, potential money gets lost, and people yell. Is it any wonder that we’re scared to death of making the slightest error?

Mic DropThere is a myth among us that artists and geniuses create perfection instantly, that inspired beauty leaps directly from imagination to reality. This myth persists because nobody ever sees the process or the screw ups. Creating an amazing piece of art happens by iteration. Artists create something, look at what isn’t working, and then try again. We create models and sketches and rehearsals and rough drafts. We experiment and throw away what isn’t working, replacing it with something hopefully better. Mistakes are the most valuable part of the learning process as long as we view them as experiments and not moral failings.

I’ve received many “Oops” emails from major companies because something wasn’t working right on their website or they advertised something incorrectly. This past April Fools Day, Google rolled out a prank called “Mic Drop” that backfired on them. Some people got mad. Very mad. But rather than implode, Google used this event as a learning opportunity and shared it with their customers.

“At Google we have a culture of sharing what we learned when things go wrong, and we want to share these learnings with you” they wrote on their blog.

They admitted their mistakes upfront, apologized, explained how they would do better in the future, and moved on. You couldn’t ask for a better response to a screw up.

So don’t be ashamed of mistakes. Nobody is interesting if you are perfect. If we make mistakes in our marketing efforts, use them to learn how to improve. Even better, use them as an opportunity to let your audience see your company as made up of real people who, like them, sometimes have “oops” days.


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