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Why Warren Buffet Is Wrong

by Doug Davidoff | Jan 2, 2007 11:32:41 AM

A client company recently hired a new salesperson. She’s got a ton of talent and she is very excited about her new opportunity. We had completed the first phase of Third Wave Selling training, and I was coaching her in preparation for her ‘going live.’

She was filled with questions (a good thing coming from a salesperson). Her questions all revolved around whether or not something would work. When I advised her that there was only one way to find out (which was to go out and do it), she was less than enthused. She replied, “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

This led to a lengthy conversation about mistakes. She agreed with me that she was trying to avoid making mistakes.  I expressed to her that this was the wrong objective. At that point, she was perplexed, as I imagine many of you may be. Isn’t the whole point of our investment of time and money in training and knowledge for the purpose of making fewer mistakes? After all, it was the Oracle of Omaha himself (Warren Buffet) who is famous for having said, “I am suspicious of anyone who talks of learning from his (or her) own mistakes. The trick is to learn from other people’s mistakes.”

The short answer is ‘No!” While I agree with Mr. Buffet that is a good thing to learn from others' mistakes, when it comes to fast-growth and going-to-market, I am suspicious of anyone who does not embrace mistakes. Mistakes are a part of growing. We all know we are going to make them, and we should all spend less time trying to avoid them. My greatest breakthroughs are as a result of grand mistakes that I or my company have made.

Whether it’s Thomas Watson, founder of IBM, who said that if you want to increase your level of success, fail more; or business consultant, coach and former President of Velcro, USA, Tom Potterfield who noted in a recent article - "Make mistakes. Make them fast. Fix them fast.”

As you go into the new year don’t fear mistakes. Embrace them. Remember, the company that is comfortable with mistakes, and fixes them fast, is out there competing in the market while the company uncomfortable with mistakes is back in the board room trying to ‘figure it out.’