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Our error management

Klassischer Fehltritt/ Fehler: in einen Kaugummi treten

If we don’t make mis­takes, we are too slow!

“We live in an error cul­ture.” “You only get bet­ter by mak­ing mis­takes.” “I you don’t make mis­takes, you don’t learn.” These and oth­er words of wis­dom can be found in many places. Thy also sound coher­ent and sens­ible. After all, there is noth­ing more annoy­ing than when col­leagues cov­er up mis­takes and as a con­sequence, you run into prob­lems your­self. If every­one deals openly with mis­takes, that takes a lot of pres­sure off of every­one. That’s the theory.

But then, at some point, the day comes when you your­self have (really) missed the mark. This is often fol­lowed by the per­fectly under­stand­able human reac­tion of self-pro­tec­tion: “I really can­’t do any­thing about that! Who could have known that? That is clearly the fault of the customer/partner/colleague!” This demon­strates a rather impress­ive human abil­ity – to pro­tect our own egos, we simply keep telling ourselves that oth­ers are to blame until we actu­ally believe it. Unfor­tu­nately, it is also very likely that the mis­take will then be repeated. As a res­ult of this self-pro­tec­tion, the num­ber of fools and ignora­muses increases steadily.

How­ever, if you really get on your ego’s toes and hon­estly ques­tion your­self, inter­est­ing (some­times pain­ful) insights arise, such as “I was too unfocused,” “I was­n’t pre­pared enough,” “I did­n’t com­mu­nic­ate clearly enough,” or “As a cus­tom­er, I would have expec­ted bet­ter.” Hon­estly admit­ting these things to your­self and ana­lyz­ing them with your ego is annoy­ing and can be mighty exhaust­ing, but it helps immensely in the long run.

At Peer­ox, we believe in speed. We know we don’t have the time or resources to avoid every con­ceiv­able mis­take in advance. That means we delib­er­ately take risks, try, and fail. We fail all the time and make mis­takes all the time. But this is the only way we can find out togeth­er what really works. It actu­ally takes more time to cov­er up mis­takes than to try some­thing out and per­haps fail a few times. We are true to the motto, “If we don’t make mis­takes, we’re too slow!”

For this strategy, three things are abso­lutely import­ant for us:

  1. We con­sciously take risks and assess pos­sible errors/damage! We must not naively run into mis­takes that may threaten our existence.
  2. We learn togeth­er from our own mis­takes and those of our col­leagues. We take every oppor­tun­ity to devel­op new solu­tion strategies.
  3. We trust each oth­er. Deal­ing openly with one’s own short­com­ings requires a very spe­cial team spir­it. Each indi­vidu­al Peer pro­tects and pro­motes this sens­it­ive culture.

In order to live this error cul­ture in the team, some com­pan­ies have, for example, a so-called “Fuck-up Hour”. People talk about fail­ures togeth­er, learn from them and build trust in them­selves, each oth­er, and the team as a whole.

At Peer­ox, the concept of the “Fuck-up Hour” was not rad­ic­al enough for us. After all, the les­sons learned are lim­ited to the part of the team present at the meet­ing. Absent or new Peers hardly have the oppor­tun­ity to learn about the fail­ures. For this reas­on, we main­tain a digit­al “Fuck-up Diary”. This is an intern­al wiki page. The advant­ages of writ­ten doc­u­ment­a­tion are obvious:

  1. Through the pro­cess of writ­ing things down, you reflect on your­self much more. You rethink indi­vidu­al decisions, pre­requis­ites, con­clu­sions, and, above all, the res­ult­ing lessons.
  2. Through our daily work in the wiki, the wiki entries from the Fuck-up Diary are presen­ted again and again in searches on sim­il­ar top­ics. This also means that our future Peers will keep stum­bling across our mis­takes from the past.
  3. By con­stantly review­ing the mis­takes we have already made, we can dir­ectly apply the les­sons we learned in future situations.
  4. Your own ego is sig­ni­fic­antly more stressed. Let­ting your pants down like this in front of all your cur­rent and future Peers requires a lot of self-reflec­tion, con­fid­ence, and courage.

As founders and man­aging dir­ect­ors, we nat­ur­ally wrote the first entries. We hon­estly admit that we wer­en’t sure at the time wheth­er we wer­en’t put­ting too much on the team. Maybe our con­tri­bu­tions would remain the only con­tri­bu­tions and the whole idea would go up in smoke. But those who know us know that the pos­sib­il­ity of embar­rass­ing ourselves to the bone has nev­er been a reas­on not to do some­thing. Besides, we were pretty sure that if some­thing like this could work with any team, it would work with ours.

Here, too, we were not dis­ap­poin­ted in our hopes. The next, relent­lessly hon­est posts fol­lowed quite quickly. We talk, dis­cuss, and laugh about our mis­steps. In this way, we build up a great deal of trust with­in our team, and cre­ate a real cul­ture of mistakes.

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