The Entrepreneurial Engineer

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Embracing mistakes

In reading a post at Texas Startup Blog on embracing mistakes (here), I was reminded of an experience on campus last week. I've been on a campus committee looking at doing something fairly entrepreneurial and one of the committee members keeps fussing about "doing it right" and "not making mistakes." My reaction each time is that this person is the wrong person on the wrong committee at the wrong time.

To be an entrepreneur IS to make mistakes because you're off doing something others aren't doing. Moreover, the easiest way not to make mistakes is to never do anything. This is a theme in Chapter 3 of The Entrepreneurial Engineer, which cites sources as different as Stanley's studies of millionaires, Seligman's studies of learned optimism and helplessness, and Rotter's work on locus of control, internals, and externals. Assuming that people are vigilant against making mistakes (thereby striving to hold constant or reduce the number of mistakes they make), the number of mistakes one makes is an indicator of productivity or an indicator of daring (one makes more mistakes doing something new). Either way, making mistakes is usually a positive indicator for the entrepreneurial engineer.


  • This reminded me of Homer Simpson's famous quote: "Trying is the first step to failure." Anyway, good points.

    By Blogger Martin Pelikan, at 8:14 PM  

  • Dear professor,

    I wholeheartedly vouch for the freedom to make mistake. However, could there be a critical for everyone between how many mistakes are "required"? Thanks for all the inspiration!

    Yours sincerely,

    By Blogger Surabhi, at 7:46 AM  

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