How do you deal with mistakes?

How we deal with our mistakes and learn from them changes over time I think. The more experience we have, the more we are open to learning from our mistakes and building on them.

I thought it’d be interesting to ask the rest of our community how they dealt with them - here are some of the answers from Twitter and LinkedIn:

Try really hard not to beat myself up!
See if there’s any lessons I can learn.
Give myself a break because I’m probably still beating myself up a bit.
Decide if there’s anything worth sharing.
And finally, have a word with myself about leaving me alone and moving on.

Own it. Learn from it. Document the answer if useful. Apologize if needed. Move on.

Own it. Learn from my mistakes. Try not to make the same mistake again. Help others who are making the same mistake.

Learn from it, identify the root cause, apply 5 whys, avoid repeating the same mistake.

Making mistakes means you are human, so analyze it, correct it if possible, report it if necessary and most of all learn from it.

Acknowledge that they happen and are okay instead of denying something was a mistake, and are an opportunity to learn something.

My colleague Emmanuel Pius-Ogiji wrote a really good blog post on this topic earlier this week:

Don’t get overwhelmed if a mistake is made.
Try to be calm, look into the matter of what was wrongly done, what issue caused it to lead to this happening.
Don’t get scared of what has happened, or its consequences. Mostly when one gets scared they eventually tend to make more mistakes. Calm yourself and discuss it with someone you trust. Don’t overthink. What now has been done can’t be undone, just own up to it. What will happen next will be the result of your action.
Accept the result, move on. Learn from your mistake, the experience, and try to always keep in mind so you are always careful next time when trying to perform a task of a similar kind.

There are no mistakes - only learning opportunities! Learn from every bug and every miss. Ask yourself “how can we prevent this in the future?” and “are the implications bad enough that we need to do something to really make sure it doesn’t happen again?” (automated task, alerting, checklist addition etc)
As the saying goes… “Ever Tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.”

From a testing perspective, mistakes are giving another dimension and scenario as to how the product behaves in that particular scenario or condition - so it is an opportunity to enhance the product functionality.

Confront the mistake, learn the consequence of the mistake, take measures to reconcile any risks or issues arising from the mistake, educate the person or persons who have made the mistake to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

It seems like lots of the community feel the same. Learn from it and try again. What about you? Have you changed how you deal with mistakes?

Looking up at the stars in the night sky and thinking how inconsequential we all are has helped me in the past.

Nobody is perfect. I personally like to fail fast i.e. fail when you can still fail and recover. The most important thing as has been said earlier is to learn from mistakes. I was always afraid of making mistakes and wanted to be perfect before i submitted any document, and that always took time. After that, i learnt and started allowing the review and rework process to achieve what my document had to achieve.

Retrospection is a must and learning from mistakes is a must, and not repeating them also is a must.

You must also learn to take it on the chin and not be defensive always. When i was younger , i used to be pretty upset, but as i grew older, i learnt that there is learning behind every mistake.

I find I am often the one who beats myself up the most over a mistake I make and others on my team don’t sweat the issue much. So long as you understand the reason for the mistake happening, work prevent it from happening in the future, and try to use it as potentially new information about a part of your product (perhaps the mistake shows some testing gaps in your product that could be covered by automation), it’s best to try to move on and let it go.

That being said, we’re all human so if you feel like it’s weighing on you, take a break, take a walk, or do something to take your mind off of it. Let others reassure you it’s all good.

1 Like

For me there are a few different mechanisms for dealing with mistakes. One is to consider it a natural part of learning. As in I am trying to master something new, if I do not dare to try something for which I might fail I will not learn as quickly. So mistakes are required to grow.

Another lesson came from a coach that worked with me. He taught me that to facilitate learning knowing the process helps. I.e. instead of going we failed in planning -> we should plan better you can go -> add this bullet to the agenda, or update the Definition of Ready with this etc.

Finally Lean Startup have an interesting concept around learning in the Learning Dilemma.

After a lot of angst, stress, and other issues, I’ve learned to treat my mistakes this way:

  • Acknowledge I made a mistake and apologize for it.
  • Analyze the mistake looking for root causes - what didn’t I have at the time, was I unwell when it happened, all that sort of information.
  • Look for things I can change in order to help me avoid that mistake in the future.
  • Once I’ve got my changes done, let it go. I can’t change what I did in the past, all I can do is give the future my best shot.

Most of the time this works pretty well. I rarely repeat a mistake - but at the same time, I’m rather talented when it comes to finding new and exciting ways to mess things up.


But beware:

“Have you learnt from your mistakes, Sir Arthur?”
“Yes I have, and I am confident that if asked, I could repeat them all perfectly.”
(Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore)