Error culture as the basis for successful digital transformation

Defining what Error Management Culture is and why it is so central to innovation and change.

A well-functioning Error Management Culture can help with digital transformation and also promote innovation. Here we explain why it is so important and what error culture means for companies.

We have already written about how corporate culture is one of the most important elements for digital transformation. An essential part of this is a well-functioning Error Management Culture. Digital transformation requires greater flexibility, a willingness to change, and also a willingness to take risks.

In digital transformation, companies must learn that there are no perfect solutions, but that they must learn to improve. Especially in German-speaking countries, it is still widespread that companies prefer to plan for a long time, prepare for a long time and then search for a flawless solution. But digital technologies have increased the speed and solutions must be tested and implemented quickly and efficiently.

New digital corporate culture through trial and error

Trial and error – This principle is central to a successful corporate culture and innovation. Companies need to move away from “silent inventors” and talk to their customers more often, use design thinking methods, for example, and create hypotheses that they then test with their customers. The hypotheses can be turned into prototypes, and testing with users can provide a lot of experience. But this requires the courage to change and also the freedom to make mistakes.

A lack of Error Management Culture is not only a problem for digital transformation but also one of the greatest weaknesses in the German-speaking world when it comes to innovation. Companies with a functioning Error Management Culture and agile approaches adapt more quickly to new technologies and can therefore react faster to the market. This is exactly why tech giants like Microsoft, Google, etc. have built this Error Management Culture into their corporate philosophy. At the same time, many companies also force it so strongly that they simply want to produce errors to learn from them. According to the saying “I never lose. I either win or learn.” – Nelson Mandela

But what elements make up a good Error Management Culture, and how can you build one yourself? We will show you the central points of a functioning Error Management Culture.

Factors for a Good Error Management Culture in the Company

Some basic elements characterize a successful Error Management Culture and thus promote the commitment of employees and the creativity of solution approaches.

1. “Just do it”

To really get the most out of this concept, you have to give employees the freedom to just do something. To do this, employees should be given resources and basic knowledge about technology, idea generation, and customer contacts. The goal is to get out of the comfort zone and test new ideas. This encourages employees to implement their ideas, test them, and learn from any mistakes. This allows them to learn quickly from mistakes and gives them the necessary experience to develop better solutions.

2. Learning from each other

A functioning Error Management Culture should also share experiences. An environment should be created where employees also share their mistakes with the team so that others can benefit from them. For example, Microsoft organizes a discussion every Friday on what could be done better and how. This open and natural way of dealing with mistakes should help people to dare to try something out. The exchange of information should also help to speed up processes and ensure that others do not make the same mistakes.

3. Request and give feedback

To get feedback quickly and to see one’s mistakes, one must also actively demand and give feedback. It is important to be confronted with feedback as quickly as possible and as early as possible. The earlier and the more constructive the feedback, the more effective the learning process and thus the improvement process. Rapidly created prototypes and rapid feedback can thus lead to much more efficient innovation processes.

4. Build trust and security

To dare to come up with new ideas and to implement them, you have to have self-confidence. If employees are afraid of being laughed at, punished, or even fired because they have made a mistake, they will not dare to work on new projects unless they are forced to do so. To get the most out of your employees, they need to have the confidence that it is okay to make a mistake and that the company appreciates it when they try something new. Many companies fail at this point because they do not trust their employees and create a culture of fear where mistakes are punished.

Conclusion on Error Management Culture

Especially in the change around new technologies and a customer-centric world, companies should learn to agree on a better corporate culture as soon as possible. The younger generation wants to live more, customers change within a short period of time and companies also have to react quickly. These fast reactions and this strong demand for adaptability will also lead to many mistakes. The management, the organization, and also the employees must be prepared for this.

Thus, a functioning Error Management Culture is a basic building block for successful survival in a digital environment and essential for companies.

CEO & Founder of MoreThanDigital. Serial entrepreneur since he successfully founded his first companies at the age of 13. He has always questioned the "status quo" and is committed to innovation, disruption and new ideas. As International keynote speaker, consultant for companies and governments & states, lecturer and published digital transformation expert, Benjamin tries to advance the topics of digitalization, digital transformation and innovation internationally.

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