The Mistakes That Make Us
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The Mistakes That Make Us

Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation

About the Book

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We all make mistakes. What matters is learning from them, as individuals, teams, and organizations. A culture of learning from mistakes spurs improvement, innovation, and better business results.

The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation is an engaging, inspiring, and practical book by Mark Graban that presents an alternative approach to mistakes. Rather than punishing individuals for human error and bad decisions, Graban encourages us to embrace and learn from them, fostering a culture of learning and innovation.

Mistakes cannot be prevented by proactively firing all of the mistake-prone people — because that’s all of us.

Sharing stories and insights from his popular podcast, “My Favorite Mistake,” along with his own work experiences, Graban shows how leaders can cultivate a culture of learning from mistakes. Including examples from manufacturing, healthcare, software, and two whiskey distillers, the book explores how organizations of all sizes and industries can benefit from this approach.

You'll read stories from leaders at Toyota, the technology company KaiNexus, along with former U.S. Representative Will Hurd, Kevin Harrington from “Shark Tank,” and many others.

The book also shares compelling examples of the power of iterating our way to success. Graban suggests we shift the thinking from “fail early, fail often” to “make small mistakes early, learn, adjust, and succeed.” Or, more succinctly, “small mistakes can lead to success.”

In the book, you'll find practical guidance on adopting a positive mindset towards mistakes. It teaches you to acknowledge and appreciate them, working to prevent them while gaining knowledge from the ones that occur. Additionally, it emphasizes creating a safe environment to express mistakes and encourages responding constructively by emphasizing learning over punishment.

Speaking up about mistakes isn’t a matter of character or courage; it’s a function of the workplace culture.

Developing a culture of learning from mistakes through psychological safety is essential in effective leadership and organizational success. Leaders must lead by example by admitting their own mistakes and reacting well when employees do the same. Instead of solely pushing for people to be courageous, leaders reduce the risk involved in speaking up. 

Psychological safety helps people feel comfortable speaking up; with effective problem-solving and mistake-proofing methods, we get action and improvement.

The Mistakes That Make Us is a must-read for anyone looking to create a stronger organization that produces better results, including lower turnover, more improvement and innovation, and better bottom-line performance. Whether you are a startup founder or an aspiring leader in a larger company, this book will inspire you to lead with kindness and humility and show you how learning from mistakes can make things right.

Praise for The Mistakes That Make Us:

“At last! A book about errors, flubs, and screwups that pushes beyond platitudes and actually shows how to enlist our mistakes as engines of learning, growth, and progress. Dive into The Mistakes That Make Us and discover the secrets to nurturing a psychologically safe environment that encourages the small experiments that lead to big breakthroughs.”


Other endorsers include:

  • Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup
  • Jim McCann, founder and chairman of 1-800-FLOWERS
  • Karen Martin, author of Clarity First and The Outstanding Organization
  • Rich Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations
  • Zeynep Ton, Ph.D., author of The Good Jobs Strategy

Table of Contents:

Chapter One: Think Positively 

Chapter Two: Admit Mistakes

Chapter Three: Be Kind

Chapter Four: Prevent Mistakes

Chapter Five: Help Everyone to Speak Up

Chapter Six: Choose Improvement, Not Punishment

Chapter Seven: Iterate Your Way to Success

Chapter Eight: Cultivate Forever


End Notes

List of Podcast Guests Mentioned in the Book

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    • Management
    • Leadership
    • Lean
    • Organizational Psychology
    • Organizational Psychology
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About the Author

Mark Graban
Mark Graban

Mark Graban is an internationally recognized consultant, author, professional speaker, and blogger. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. For his full bio, visit

Mark's newest book (2023) is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation.

He is the author of the book Lean Hospitals, which was the first healthcare book selected as a recipient of the Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award. Mark has also co-authored Healthcare Kaizen and was the editor of the anthology Practicing Lean, published through LeanPub. He published Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More in 2018, originally on LeanPub.

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