Archives for posts with tag: Mistake

I feel sure, without any empirical evidence to back it up, that some of the greatest inventions, jokes, phrases and so on started their lives as a mistake. A transcribing error, a misheard comment, a miscommunication, or maybe misheard lyrics.

The title of this blog post is no typo, I meant to write it. But it did begin as a typo, when I was writing an email on strategy, and wrote startegy instead.

When you think about it, strategy is all about starting, about getting started. It can sometimes be daunting to ‘do’ strategy. There are processes to follow, people to involve, data to collect, decisions to be made. Then you have to execute on it, as strategy is nothing without execution.

If you’re stuck, start! Somewhere, anywhere, to get the process moving and make the early mistakes.

My typo reminded me that strategy is as much about doing as it is about thinking, planning and plotting. Startegy – the science of starting.

Many moons ago – probably about 280 moons in fact – I was responding to an invitation to tender for the design and production of an annual report.

It was for a national tourist body, and we’d been working for years to get on their roster of companies that they would invite to bid for their larger projects.

I was reading through the brief and there was one sentence I couldn’t understand at all. It was talking about the partners’ hip. Nope, me neither. I assumed it was the partners’ hip since the apostrophe was missing and I tut-tutted my way over and over the sentence trying to make sense of it.

What did they mean by hip? Was that some kind of cultural reference key to getting inside the essence of the brand, I wondered. I debated calling the customer, but was conscious of the fact that we hadn’t really clicked the first time.

I plucked up the courage to call and ask her what she meant by partners’ hip. If she didn’t actually snort down the phone she must have come very close, as her tone was dripping with derision. ‘No, it should say partnership.’

Bloody hell! Bloody typos! It wasn’t the typo I thought it was, it was another typo entirely, the addition of an unnecessary and misleading space turning one word into two, contorting the meaning completely out of my understanding. I had looked at the sentence so many times I overlooked the most obvious explanation staring me in the face.

Suffice it to say we didn’t win the bid, and I don’t remember ever winning any work from that customer. Their typo, my punishment, and an expensive one at that.

Do you know what I find pretty shocking these days? When a company doesn’t admit they were wrong, or they made a mistake, or their service failed to live up to expectations.

Now there’s a small chance a company didn’t know that its website was down for a good while, for example, but it’s a very small chance these days. When was the last time you saw a company admit they messed up, unless they were forced to because a PR issue they could have stemmed early has spiralled into a nightmare?

I recently got an email from a company whose stuff I subscribe to, because it’s very good content. The email came thru with the subject line exactly like this: [insert subversive subject line]. I kid you not. It’s wrong on so many levels, even when you try and explain it away as deliberate, but I never saw a subsequent apology.

Companies seem to want to sweep it under the corporate carpet, forget it ever happened, or else hope that no-one noticed. They hardly ever say ‘mea culpa’ unless they have to. Wouldn’t it be the most refreshing thing in the world if you went onto a website and there was a prominent statement to the effect of:

“Do you know something, our website was down for 2 hours last Thursday, and that might have been when you were browsing it. If that’s the case, we humbly apologise for your experience not being up the standards we set ourselves. We’ll try our best not to let it happen again.”

Do you think it will send their customers’ lawyers scurrying off to see if they can eek out a few bucks for a broken SLA? Do you think it’ll send their stock price plummeting and plunge the world’s markets into disarray? Probably not. A little bit of honesty, humility and integrity will in all likelihood have the opposite effect.

This is what it boils down to. It shouldn’t be a case of ‘Phew, got away with that one, let’s chalk it up to good fortune’ but rather ‘We should do better, we should come clean and we should redouble our efforts to live up to our brand promise.’

It’s OK to say ‘I’m sorry, my fault.’  In fact I encourage it, especially if you manage people.

The trouble is, it’s almost always expediency over effort.

Have you ever said something which was accidentally funny? Or made a joke intended to be interpreted one way and someone laughs at a completely different side to it?

I’m sure there are lots of great definitions of humour, but for me it’s simply drawing attention to the difference between an imagined situation and the real situation.

That difference providing the basis for the humour often seems to originate by mistake.  Something you mispronounced, or was mis-heard, or mis-understood. When two or more more comedy writers bounce ideas off each other as part of the creative and collaborative process, I wonder how much of the really good stuff originates by accident and then gets polished.

In the European Football – or Soccer to our North American and Irish friends – Championships of 2012, Group C which featured Spain, Ireland and Italy was called the Group of Debt, a witty variant on the term Group of Death. I’d like to think this elegant play on words originated in Ireland where sometimes ‘debt’ and ‘death’ sound indistinguishable, but apparently it had been coined the year before by a Brit.

My mistake :-).