A TEN-MILLION DOLLAR EDUCATION
"The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try," says management consultant Peter Drucker. "I would never promote into a top-level job a man who was not making mistakes ... otherwise he is sure to be mediocre."
A now famous story at IBM involved founder Thomas Watson and one of his vice presidents who took the initiative on the development of a new product. As reported in Fortune (August 31 1987), the product was a risky venture that ended up a colossal failure and cost the company US$10 million. Watson called the executive into his office saying there was something he wanted to discuss with him. Sure he was about to lose his job, the young man blurted out, "I guess you want my resignation?"
Watson replied, "You must be kidding. We've just spent US$10 million educating you."
Anyone making a multi-million-dollar mistake had to learn something that would help him do a better job the next time. Drucker's comment that people who are not making mistakes are sure to be mediocre is comforting to those of us who make mistakes as a part of our daily regimen.
Extracted from 'Speaker's Sourcebook II', Glenn Van Ekeren, Prentice Hall, 1994
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