Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes, regardless of how well prepared or experienced we are. In the context of early-stage startups, mistakes are inevitable, and they remain valuable for the company’s development, the products and the contributors.
The key is how we handle mistakes. Communicate mistakes, analyze what went wrong and learn to avoid the same mistakes in the future. A positive error culture is crucial for a company.
Dealing with mistakes in a positive way does not mean acting mindlessly, without a plan, and making all kinds of mistakes. Mistakes should be avoided where humanly possible. Here, training, programs, exchange of experiences, conversations and books are a valuable toolbox for founders to learn about the mistakes of others and not to repeat them.
For founders, the goal is always to develop a functioning, scalable business model. Startups themselves, especially early-stage startups, take risks as they test the unknown and try to realize new opportunities – mistakes are part of the path to success here. Mistakes will happen in the development from an early stage StartUp to a company, and then the culture of mistakes is crucial. Founders and teams need to learn from mistakes, primarily not to repeat them but also to highlight and utilize the potential positive aspects of the experience.
Mistakes are not the biggest problem; dealing with them is crucial. Startups can learn and develop from the experience of having done something wrong. As a team, it is essential to act in a positive culture of mistakes. The emotional handling of mistakes should be kept short and to the point – being briefly angry about it is appropriate, but do not let shame and protracted self-reproach arise. Within the team, errors should be communicated promptly and analyzed when possible.
The mistake culture in teams is an essential factor, both for the collaborative work and team spirit. Condemning mistakes is not goal-oriented; appropriate and open communication is vital. “XY made this mistake” is accusatory, better “Mistake Z happened because such and such was processed, please make sure you act differently.” As a result, we learn from the mistakes of others when we can understand why they happened.
Covering up or shifting responsibility to others is the wrong way to go; the mistake will only lead to a more significant negative impact. Mistakes need to be communicated openly and analyzed as soon as possible. The team must continue to treat each other with respect even if mistakes occur because the deciding factor is always to solve the problem caused by a mistake, not to clarify a question of guilt.
Startups need to establish a culture of mistake for themself. Doing that early and adapting to the team’s growth will make it easier for everyone involved.