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Porsche stands in the tradition of witty entrepreneurs and unprecedented pioneers. But what must not be forgotten is what all these people have in common: their courage. Courage often means moving forward brashly, but it also means admitting mistakes, facing criticism, and learning from them.
To spread exactly this message, we in the finance and IT department of Porsche, initiated a virtual Failure Talk, where we shared our professional missteps. We gathered with colleagues and supervisors to talk about the biggest mistakes they made in their working lives — under the title “Schaffe, Schaffe, Scheiße baue” (a variation of a Swabian proverb, roughly and frankly translated with: Create, Create, Create Shit).
Quite daring, because after all, the fear of failure is still particularly great in Germany. Hardly anyone wants to admit their failures and if the audience is not a stranger but a colleague or friend, then the hurdle of standing on a stage becomes even greater.
Acceptance of mistakes promotes transparency
The call to reveal one’s blunders was intended for everyone who would have been willing to do so. In our first round, three managers came forward. One of them not only told us what mistake he had made but also how his boss reacted to it. His supervisor showed full understanding of the situation and thus calmed down his employee. He shared with us that this empathic dealing with his mistake has also shaped him and his way of managing employees to this day. With his story, he taught us as listeners how important it is to have a non-judgmental environment that focuses on outcomes rather than mistakes.
An invited coach, Stefan Lapenat, who accompanied the evening and gave a keynote speech, also explained that openness to human weakness promotes transparency and noticeably improves the error culture in companies. When mistakes are accepted, employees can make courageous decisions that serve the further development of the organization.
“Where no mistakes happen, there are no dynamics,” said Stefan. “Mistakes are a learning opportunity.” He encouraged the audience: “Let us make smart mistakes together.” He explained that Penicillin and the medical pacemaker were invented by mistake. Stefan even talked about so-called “premium errors” — those errors, which you continue to think about, and which lead to a lasting change of a wrong process.
We at Porsche did not only want to increase openness about mistakes with this night, but we also hoped that sharing experiences with our colleagues, might help in their careers. You don’t have to make every mistake yourself to draw conclusions from them.
Being brave might lead to mistakes, but also to glory
80 people attended the Failure Talks and the limited number of participants created a more personal atmosphere. It was important to us that especially the speakers felt comfortable since they were supposed to talk about their mistakes on a stage.
After the presentations, I had the feeling that many colleagues were almost moved by so much openness, and we also received a lot of positive feedback afterwards and noticed that we had really made a difference in some colleagues through this evening.
Another event of this kind is to take place at Porsche at the beginning of 2022 — this time in-person, we hope. It is important to us that it is really “by colleagues for colleagues”. So anyone who has the right mindset to participate in such a format can sign up. What I took away from the evening was that it’s often worthwhile not to spend ages poring over your thoughts or drawing up pro/con lists, but simply to get started. And if it goes wrong? That has happened to others, too. But the world belongs to the brave.
The original article is from medium.com