Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mistakes aren't good

~From What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, page 91:

We are ashamed to make mistakes--as well we should be, yes? It's our job to get things right, right? So, when we make mistakes, our instinct is to shrink into a ball and wish them away. Correcting errors, though necessary, is embarrassing.

But the truth about truth is itself counterintuitive: Corrections do not diminish credibility. Corrections enhance credibility. Standing up and admitting your errors makes you more believable; it gives your audience faith that you will right your future wrongs. When companies apologize for bad performance--as JetBlue did after keeping passengers on tarmacs for hours--that tells us that they know their performance wasn't up to their standard, and we have a better idea of the standard we should expect.

Yeah... um... no. I think it's important for individuals to admit mistakes to themselves and get past any personal pride. It can also sound ridiculous when you hear someone who you know was wrong make excuses ("well, what I really meant was blah blah blah" ... "well, I don't know, it wasn't like that for me, blah blah blah" *cough* you know who you are *cough*). But the point isn't to admit mistakes, it's to not make them. If (or when) you make them, it's best to hide them, if you can. If it's already very obvious you made a mistake, the damage to your reputation is already done. Trying to make excuses or not admitting the mistake when it's obvious only damages your reputation further.

However, sometimes whether or not something was a mistake is a subjective thing. Was it a mistake to go to war with Iraq? Some say yes, and then they say that it should be admitted by everybody. Well, no! Some people honestly don't believe that. And when people are arguing over whether or not something was a mistake, admitting it was is a stupid thing to do. If you admit a mistake, your opponents won't say "Well, at least you're honest!" ... no, they say "Aha! Even you admit it, you mistake-making loser!" ... and if you don't admit it, all they can do is continue to disagree with you.

So . . . whether or not it's wise to admit a mistake I believe depends on the circumstances. Do others all agree that you made a mistake? Is there anyone you can effectively blame? Are there any excuses that might work? Do not just let "admitting the mistake" be the first thing you do. The situation and the possible consequences must be considered.

In the more personal realm, unless you know everything, you are definitely wrong about a lot of things. Admitting your incomplete knowledge to yourself is always a good thing. After all, it's usually not admitting your incomplete knowledge to yourself that gets you in to making mistakes in the first place.



At November 2, 2009 at 8:58 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

the passage seemed to be leaning more towards the correction of a mistake more so than the explanation (excuse) of the mistake. What you put in seemed to say that we should cover up our mistakes. "Out of sight, out of mind." But that leaves the resulting problem of the mistake made. If the problem is left unrpaired your credibility is still left damaged, and when you try to make future decisions, no one will want to support you because you did not stand by your actions and left previous works practicaly unfinished.

Along with that mistakes are good. "If it aint broke, don't fix it." is an analogy that is used quite often and has been extended to "If it works, don't improve it" When a mistake accurs, you SHOULD be forsed to gain more understading from and provisions SHOULD be made outher wise it is inevitable to make the same mistake again, just under a different context.


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