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Apr 2, 2024

Why Messing Up is Essential for Business and How to Do it More

Sponsored Content provided by Jordan Cain - Chief Operating Officer , APPROVE

Businesses today are being asked to do more with less, grow faster, and stay ahead of ever-changing trends. What’s the key to keeping up? 

Messing up. 

What happens when a workplace culture fears failure?

We know what happens when we perceive a threat: increased breathing, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure. The body becomes hyper-vigilant and the mind engages “fear blinders” - a narrowed form of thinking that is great when running from bears, but less great when problem solving. 

Unfortunately, our brains are notoriously bad at distinguishing between the two.

Science has studied how this biological reaction impacts the working mind. In a 2005 study, participants were asked to complete a maze by moving a cartoon mouse from start to finish. In one version a piece of cheese awaits at the end, and in the other, an owl is lurking.

Not only did those with the cheese maze finish faster and at higher rates, but they solved subsequent problems faster and at higher rates, as well. 
So, what happens when workplaces start encouraging messing up? 

1. It makes the team more creative, more effective, and faster. 

The maze exercise teaches us that we're more effective when running toward something without the fear of making a mistake. When you normalize and encourage failure at work, you allow your team to operate at their highest, most creative level. 

When workplaces start to talk about mistakes openly, leadership hears about potential issues sooner, teams solve together on the fly, and people feel empowered to address errors quickly. The result? Better problem-solving, more creative solutions, and a more competitive company.
2. It makes the team smarter.

Science also shows that the process of messing up makes us smarter. When we experience failure, our bodies are prompted to grow and shrink the pathways in our brains, fine-tuning our neural networks and enhancing our capacity to learn and adapt. 

Trial and error at work not only facilitates solving the issue at hand, but it also allows the team to solve faster and more easily in the future.
3. It makes the team resilient.
When mistakes are made normal, the members of your team respond faster in tough situations and are more likely to experience a growth mindset than a mental setback. 

People with a growth mindset view errors not as permanent failures but as opportunities for learning and growth. They act differently. In fact, a 2011 study reveals that a growth mindset is associated with increased processing and learning. When a workplace embraces mistakes, it in turn cultivates resilience, adaptability, and a deeper understanding of what’s possible. 
Where to start: 

Have a team that's scared to fail? Here's an easy place to start. 

Schedule a standing weekly meeting for 15-30 minutes. Give it a catchy title and make it fun! If you're in the office – grab a beverage and go outside.

Each member of the team talks about their mess-up from the week. These are not trivial things; the group should be talking about big, hairy mistakes. 

The goal is simple: talk about what went wrong, what you did next, and what you learned. It takes a few weeks to get comfortable, but eventually the team will cheer each other on, learn to lean on each other, and end the week laughing with their coworkers. I've  never seen teams more connected or having more fun than they do during Mess Up Meetings. 
In order to get it right, you have to be willing to get it wrong.

APPROVE is an award-winning fintech startup and one of Wilmington's fastest-growing SaaS companies. You can learn more about working with us at

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