Fostering Innovation, Embracing Mistakes

Think mistakes are always bad? Think again. William L. McKnight, a former president and chairman of the board at 3M, has been credited by many with fostering the company’s emphasis on innovation. In 1948, while president of the company, McKnight had this to say about mistakes.

“Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs. Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative.”

Today, 3M holds patents on hundreds (if not thousands) of products, ranging from Scotch® brand tapes and Post-It® Notes to fiber optics, fuel cell components, security devices, and more. By accepting mistakes as an inevitable part of business, 3M has built and maintained a highly successful brand in a fiercely competitive market. Along the way, they’ve earned a reputation as a leader in fostering innovation and attracting top talent to their team.

So what can you learn from one of the world’s leading brands? Embracing initiative means accepting mistakes and learning to loosen the reins.

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