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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Mistakes in the workplace aren't all bad

The Life: if you want to boost creativity in your organisation you must show employees that it is okay to fail, says a leadership expert.
"Companies want people who are creative. [They] want innovation. [They] want to be at the forefront," says Kevin Abdulrahman. Jaime Puebla / The National
"Companies want people who are creative. [They] want innovation. [They] want to be at the forefront," says Kevin Abdulrahman. Jaime Puebla / The National

Painted on the walls of one of the world's most successful companies is a motto that may surprise some: "Done is better than perfect."

Experts say the message in Facebook's Silicon Valley headquarters holds an important lesson for the company's employees: it is OK to make mistakes.

"Companies want people who are creative. [They] want innovation. [They] want to be at the forefront," says Kevin Abdulrahman, a leadership expert who spoke about creativity at the Rotary Club of Dubai this month.

"But some companies are not creating the environment for creativity and innovation," he adds.

Businesses that do create the right kind of setting take an interesting approach to employee errors.

When an engineer at Facebook makes a mistake, the person is not fired or ridiculed. "They say 'OK good stuff; let's fix the bug and get on with it'," says Mr Abdulrahman.

The approach encourages employees to be more daring. Allowing for mistakes is the single biggest step any company can take to encourage creativity and innovation, according to Mr Abdulrahman.

"How can your people try things out if they're worried about putting their neck out on the line because they're going to get fired for the first mistake they make?" he says. "Failure is a must."

This does not mean that making the same mistake repeatedly is acceptable, he warns. But people who do not make mistakes are not necessarily progressing, says Panos Manolopoulos, the vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Stanton Chase International.

"Development is based on making mistakes," he says.

Appreciation is another way to improve creativity, according to Mr Abdulrahman.

He says he knows of a woman who worked for a Fortune 500 company in the Emirates and at the outset was so excited about the work she was doing that she did not mind putting in long hours. But when Mr Abdulrahman met her six months into her role, her workload and hours had remained the same but her attitude had turned negative.

What had happened?

She said her manager had changed and did not appreciate her — and she quit because she felt undervalued.

"Three years down the track, that company has called her to say 'would you like a job with us?' And she said 'no thank you, I'm happy where I am and I feel appreciated'," he adds.

Other companies use money to encourage employee creativity and innovation. But after a while, money no longer motivates peopleas effectively as in the beginning, says Mr Abdulrahman.

"We know of far too many professionals who have switched jobs for even less pay just because they feel they can have a sense of ownership and they can be part of something, that their efforts will be seen or counted," he says.

Many human-resources professionals and recruitment agents say they are concerned about finding talent in the future.

"But are we creating the environment to bring out the talent we have and also attract talent?" says Mr Abdulrahman. "If you are a talented professional, you want to work in place where you feel you can let loose."

Facebook and Google are just a couple of organisations that excel at encouraging employee creativity.

"You can just look at the companies that have the buzz where everyone [says] 'I would love to work there'. They are obviously doing something right," he adds.

gduncan@thenational.ae

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