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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tripping into Terra Incognita: How Mistakes Take Us To New Places | John Caddell, 99U

The home page of my website, Garbl's Writing Center, and all its sections have a pencil at the top of the page. I also call my writing-and-editing service Garbl's Pencil.

And there's a reason for my use of that image besides needing an appropriate graphic. I explain it at Garbl's Creativity Resources Online. Under the pencil image there is this line: The Ultimate Creativity Tool. It's followed by an asterisk linked to text at the bottom of the page.
And that linked text says:
* It's OK to make mistakes. That's why pencils have erasers.
As Cadell's "Terra Incognita" article discuses, we can learn from our mistakes. Of course, that learning process includes fixing our mistakes quickly if the immediate consequences might be negative. Thus, the eraser on the pencil, and the lead at the other end to correct the mistake and try again!

Cadell writes (emphasis added):
When we inevitably do make a mistake, we act like someone tripping on a crack in a sidewalk – we move on as fast as we can and hope no one notices.
But if we think about where mistakes can take us, it's to the margins, to the unknown, the unexplored – the area beyond Sigmas. And what can we learn there? We can see that some of our cherished assumptions are invalid, and that there are opportunities we never imagined.
He then briefly describes the mistakes, the "happy accidents"--the serendipity--that led to the invention of vulcanized rubber and our first artificial sweetener.  He writes:
A mistake is a collision between your perception and reality. As such, it's a terribly valuable asset. Goodyear had not imagined that the charring process could be useful. Fahlberg wasn't looking for flavorers. Only by erring did they discover these heretofore unknown qualities.
As Cadell concludes, he quotes a related article in the Harvard Business Review:
Successful people work with what they have at hand — whatever comes along — and try to use everything at their disposal in achieving their goals. And that is why they are grateful for surprises, obstacles, and even disappointments. It gives them more information and resources to draw upon.
Cadell's article is featured in today's (Aug. 15) Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

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