Acknowledging mistakes could win you millions

There is a wealth of management literature about mistakes. Tolerating mistakes, so that employees’ creativity isn’t stifled by fear of sanctions. Managing mistakes, so that companies know how to avoid them in future, and also learn about how to do things better.

One of the biggest issues, of course, is the difficulty individuals and corporations can have in admitting errors – possibly because of ensuing trouble, but also perhaps through a fear of losing their own or others’ esteem.

This is particularly dangerous if it prevents a crucial change of course.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates seems to be a world champion of business-saving U-turns. Most of us are familiar with the juicy quotes:

 “There’s nobody getting rich writing software that I know of.”

 “We [Microsoft] will never make a 32-bit operating system.”

 “The Internet? We are not interested in it.”

 Actions speak louder than words, so maybe there is no need to ask how he handled the retractions. But just imagine what could have happened to him and to Microsoft if he had stuck obstinately by his original stated opinions.

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