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Why ‘wrong’ can sometimes be oh so ‘right’

Why ‘wrong’ can sometimes be oh so ‘right’

Time to Read: 1 Minute 43 Seconds

Why ‘wrong’ can sometimes be oh so ‘right’


What do aspirin, penicillin, laughing gas, vaccination, Velcro, Nylon, the Post-it Note, dynamite, X-rays, Ivory Soap, liquorice allsorts and even Coca Cola have in common?

They were all ‘invented’ by accident!

3 quick stories behind the above – The Post-It Note. In 1968, a scientist at 3M, Dr. Spencer Silver, was attempting to develop a super-strong adhesive. Instead he accidentally created a “low-tack”, reusable, pressure-sensitive adhesive, which then took 5 years to persuade 3M of its power.

Liquorice Allsorts – In 1899 Charlie Thompson, a sales representative, dropped a tray of samples he was showing a client in Leicester, mixing up the various sweets. After he scrambled to re-arrange them, the client was intrigued by the new creation.

Coca-Cola was patented, in 1886, as ‘Pemberton’s French Wine Coca’ for medicinal purposes, as a nerve and tonic stimulant and a possible cure for headaches!

So, when something goes wrong for you, on a project, in your organisation or in your life, how can you make this into serendipity?

By asking this question:

How does the fact that (state the issue) help me/us achieve the outcome I/we want to achieve?

Here’s an example from our experience:

When we first began we invited some CEOs to a private dinner – our outcome was 8 from 40 invitations.

We invested much time in crafting the perfect invitation. After checking and rechecking, we sent it out, only to discover the following day that the stamp value on the letters was 1p short and everyone receiving it had to go to the post office and pay an excess to receive it!

How embarrassing!

We asked ourselves, how does the fact that the letters are 1p short help us fill our table for dinner?

Hang on a minute – how did we find this out? Because 8 – yes, 8 CEOs or their PAs had called us to tell us! Within 3 days it was 19, all of whom were upset, and then most of them gratefully(!) accepted our offer of seeing them in person to apologise.

And we also called the other 21.

The outcome? We had 2 dinners – 16 CEOs, and coffees with many others.

Of these, 6 went on to become Client Business Partners, and others remain good friends to this day.

Please, I am not suggesting that you deliberately make a mistake so that you can turn it into your advantage, as there will be many that you won’t be able to.

However, before you write off a mistake, an error or a serious setback as a ‘failure’ I strongly suggest you ask that question:

How does the fact that (state the issue) help us achieve the outcome we want to achieve?

Sometimes, the answer will be – ‘it doesn’t’.

If you persist, with an open mind, the answer will turn everything around for you, for your teams/projects and for your organisation.

In other words, turn that bitter tasting, bad news, end of the world lemon into sweet tasting, enjoyable and refreshing lemonade.

With my love and best wishes.


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