I really like Dan Pink's latest book, Johnny Bunko. I follow his Bunko Blog pretty regularly, but a recent posting really kinda ticked me off. Not because of what Mr. Pink said, but what some readers had to say about ways to "improve" his book.
A group from Canada's Ministry of Small Business got together to discuss the book, and ended up creating a list of suggested rewrites. I think they completely missed the point, and ended up with a painfully ineffective, watered-down, wimpy collection of suggestions.
For example, they took issue with Lesson #5: Make Excellent Mistakes. They wrote:
Make excellent mistakes is the one we had lots of trouble with. It is rarely ok to make any kind of mistakes and many get brow beaten for mistakes. No one ever got fired for picking IBM. This applies in government. A rewrite could be "Know how to manage risk." How do you make excellent mistakes and come out smelling like a rose? How do you evaluate how 'excellent' your mistake can be. Is getting a divorce an excellent mistake? For some it is.
"It is rarely ok to make any kind of mistakes?" Um, says who? And guess what - that's a mistake! Mistakes are unavoidable & inevitable. Further, real mistakes come with consequences, so a mistake where you "come out smelling like a rose" isn't exactly a learning experience. And why bring up divorce? I don' t think that's what Lesson #5 is really about.
Bad thing happen. People make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes hurt. Trying to avoid mistakes is a fear-based recipe for mediocrity, ignorance and inaction. Johnny Bunko got it right. Maybe some people should get fired for buying IBM... and if you get browbeaten for making mistakes, I'd suggest either a) toughen up or b) find a new job / new boss.