What Chefs and Restauranteurs Say About Learning From Failures & Mistakes


Speaking of mistakes, the cover image I selected for today's post reminds of traveling this past Monday. At DFW airport, a company was giving away samples of their new variety of gum. That might have been the gum (chewed by some passenger) that I then sat in later in the terminal. Yuck.

So, an accident like sitting in gum might be different than a workplace mistake. Or, was it my mistake for not looking before I sat?

Anyway, this article caught my eye the other day:

Top Chefs and Restaurateurs on the Best Lessons They Learned from Failures

Check out the article for the detail, but here are the five lessons and I think they apply to Lean and other things we practice, with my commentary…

Remove “failure” from your vocabulary, and replace it with “obstacle.”

“And that's the trait of a successful restaurateur–being able to look at problems. We're problem solvers …”

We can't solve problems if we can't admit there are problems. “No problems is a problem,” as the Toyota-ism goes.

Instead of framing things as “failure,” we might think of them as “unexpected learnings.”

Mistakes are an important part of success. 

We learn through mistakes. The key is creating the opportunity to make small mistakes as a way of preventing large mistakes. That's the core of Lean thinking and the “Lean Startup” methodology.

“When you stumble and when you fall, that makes you want to get up and try harder even to succeed.”

Embrace a willingness to be wrong.

As I blogged about the other day, being willing to admit that you're wrong is better than stubbornly refusing to admit it.

Encourage dialogue. 

“The only way to avoid making the same mistakes over and over at your restaurant is by fostering healthy dialogue and creating an environment where staffers feel safe enough to raise concerns or offer feedback.”

That's true in healthcare, too!

Accept that setbacks are part of the process. 

“People are very, very scared of failure. A setback is just a setback. [T]ell your team, every once in a while you're going to fall flat on your face.” And that when they do, you'll have their backs.” 

That's great advice and fantastic leadership.


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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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