Strategic Market Leadership

Was it a Mistake...or Not ?

Mon, 2016-02-15 20:34 -- tomjonez


Last week I pointed out that sometimes “children’s stories” can convey a message (or two) that we initially miss when reading the story to our children. I illustrated, by referencing a quote from the Wizard of Oz, that on further reflection such stories can reveal important leadership principles (click here to read).

In the same vein, the children’s book “Beautiful Oops!” by Barney Saltzberg, illustrates the lesson that mistakes can open the door to creativity and innovation.

An example for which we can easily see the truth of this principle is born out in the real-life story of chemist Spencer Silver. While trying to invent a formula to strengthen an adhesive, he accidentally invented a glue that wasn’t permanent. Ratchet the clock forward a bit and, when fellow members of his church choir noticed he was using bits of paper with his non-permanent glue to mark sections of his sheet music, they began to ask him for samples they put to use for their own practice notes.  To make a long story short, a decade later his “accident” became what we familiarly call “Post-It Notes.”

And you can bet that there are a lot of chemists who wish that they were the one who had made that mistake!

The leadership lesson is clear: when leaders make it safe to take risks, firms innovate more and achieve higher returns; because mistakes can actually become an adventure in creativity, and can open a window to new discoveries.

An example of a leadership principle that is so straight-forward, it can be taught to children – and, once again, one that is hidden (or not!) in a simple children’s book.