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Learn from Mistakes – 5 Tips for a Healthy Error Culture

One of the lessons learned recent years was that businesses need to be more adaptable. First and foremost, companies and project teams should be able to react more quickly to internal or external changes. Changes can be internal forms of organization, for example. But it can also be new sales channels, client requirements, productivity, or durations. Project teams are required to make faster decisions and dare to experiment.

To achieve this, however, a distinct error culture is required.

Why is there a Need for a Culture of Error?

Errors can occur in any experiment. These can be mistakes in implementation, but also wrong assumptions. The result is different from the desired result. To act quickly, however, there is often no time for extensive analyzes or planning.

Especially with new forms of organization or working methodologies, it is a matter of trying things out. This courage for new topics can only be achieved with a healthy error culture. This does not punish errors but focuses on the knowledge gained through the experience made. Team members must be sure that courageous actions and resulting mistakes do not threaten them.

How can the Error Culture in the Team be Improved?

Everyone can work on the error culture in the team. However, executives and upper management are particularly in demand here. Management culture must be a matter for the boss.

1. Lead by example

Nothing works better in terms of error culture, but when the manager himself openly admits errors. This takes a lot of courage in the first step and feels uncomfortable. However, the symbolic act of the manager himself admitting mistakes and deriving knowledge from them for others is extremely important.

Many see their manager as a role model and copy ways of working. This role model function can be used ideally for building up a culture of error. Besides, it is much easier for the entire team to admit their own mistakes when the manager has dared to take the first step.

2. Define areas in which mistakes are allowed to occur

A misunderstanding in the area of error culture is that errors can be made anywhere. There are areas in which experimentation is required. But as soon as it comes to human life or compliance, a different approach to errors is necessary. The so-called zero-error tolerance is still useful in many areas, but not in all. It must be clearly defined in which areas or to what extent experiments are desired and errors can occur.

3. Allow yourself to admit mistakes and share them with others

Especially at the beginning, many team members find it difficult to admit mistakes and to share them with the team.

It is, therefore, worthwhile to give structured time and space, especially at the beginning, to address these errors. One possibility for this is a retrospective from the Scrum Framework. A retrospective can also be used without using Scrum. The idea behind this is to meet in a team at regular intervals and to exchange ideas about cooperation. An element of the retrospective can then be, for example, what the greatest gain in knowledge is due to errors that have occurred in a certain period.

It is also possible to make entire events around the topic of mistakes.

4. Reward admitting mistakes

Especially in unpleasant situations, it takes a lot of courage to admit own mistakes. Human much rather shine with success than with failure.

Therefore, such behavior must be specially rewarded. As soon as team members are rewarded for this openness and honesty, it affects the entire team.

A reward can, for example, be words of appreciation in front of the entire team. But it can also be symbols, such as a badge on a desk, which is visible to everyone. There are no limits to creativity here.

5. Focus on gaining knowledge

The word error has a negative connotation. The goal of a good error culture is above all to gain knowledge quickly and to share it with everyone. Therefore, in every meeting, the focus should not be solely on planning and success. The downsides and the lessons learned from them must also be on the agenda. The project team must prioritize the topics of learning and gaining knowledge significantly higher. If project teams want to be more adaptable, they have to learn faster than the competition to gain knowledge and apply it.


One of the most important skills in any profession is the ability to learn from mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable and unavoidable, but they can also be valuable opportunities for growth and improvement. Learning from mistakes involves recognizing what went wrong, analyzing the causes and consequences, taking responsibility and accountability, seeking feedback and advice, and applying the lessons learned to prevent or correct similar errors in the future. Learning from mistakes also requires a positive attitude and a willingness to embrace challenges and risks, rather than avoiding them or blaming others. By learning from mistakes, professionals can enhance their knowledge, skills, performance, and reputation, as well as foster a culture of continuous learning and innovation in their organizations.

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