You may have the story about failure during the tenure of Tom Watson, Sr. as CEO of IBM. As the story goes, a promising young executive at IBM was involved in a risky venture that lost $10 million for the company. When Tom Watson Sr., the founder and CEO of IBM, called the executive to his office, the executive tendered his resignation. Watson is reported to have said, "You can't be serious. We've just spent $10 million dollars educating you!" Making mistakes and learning from them is important, current GE CEO Jeff Immelt, often recants his famous $20 Million dollar mistake. "If you tried something and it fails but you went about it the right way and you learned from it, that's not a bad thing," Immelt stated in the July 2006 issue of Business Week magazine.
They lead to learning.
They aren’t repeated.
They are done in pursuit of your goals and objectives.
They don’t violate or conflict with your values.
Think about these criteria collectively not individually. In other words, a mistake could pass three of the criteria but not the fourth. In this case it isn’t OK. But if it meets all four criteria, my advice is to celebrate the person for taking a risk (or congratulate yourself) and keep moving forward.
With these criteria in place people will become more willing to try new things; to take a bit more risk; and to be less tentative. All of these things will lead to some mistakes – but they will also lead to great opportunities for growth and improvement.