Bottom Line Up Front:
I wrote a book about mistakes. That book was published… with some mistakes.
Since it's a book about learning from mistakes, that's the intent of this post.
As I've hosted a podcast about learning from mistakes (which led to a book), there are a few key points that I learned (or was reminded of) along the way). And I was prompted to think about them when reviewing the mistakes that exist in the early printings (and first Kindle release) of that book.
We all make mistakes.
What matters is learning from them.
Don't be too hard on yourself.
We're more likely to learn from our mistakes when we can react to them in kind and constructive ways.
We should work to prevent mistakes, but mistakes are still likely to happen.
There are some mistakes that we should work really hard to prevent (such as those that would cause physical harm to a hospital patient).
But, when we're creating new things, improving our work, or innovating, mistakes should be not just expected, but celebrated–as opportunities to learn and improve.
If we're not making any mistakes (in the process of creating, improving, and innovating, then we're not trying hard enough–we're not taking reasonable risks. If we wait for something to be perfect before launching, we're moving too slowly for the marketplace.
Mistakes in My Book… About Mistakes
As hard as we tried (“we” being my editor, the copyeditor, the proofreader, and the book production team), the initial printings (and Kindle release) of my book The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation is not perfect. It has mistakes.
That doesn't surprise me.
Or maybe I was, um, trying to prove a point by intentionally including some mistakes… yeah, that's the ticket.
Yeah, that's not true.
As hard as we tried, I wasn't about to take the book through 30 rounds of proofreading to ensure that a perfect book was released. That doesn't mean I was trying to cut corners or be sloppy.
The book went through various phases of review and editing:
- My developmental editor, Tom Ehrenfield, found some typos and grammatical errors even though his job was really content-focused
- The company that I hired to do the production of the book's interior had a professional copy editor go through the book. He found some mistakes.
- Then, a professional proofreader (another different speciality) went through the book and found mistakes.
I felt confident there were no major problems when I hit “publish” for the book. And if there were minor problems… it would be OK.
Now, if you're thinking, “See, this is why you shouldn't self publish, because the quality isn't as good as a traditionally published book,” I'd say that's a mistake.
I had the same class of professionals working with me as a publisher would have (which is why it's a mistake, in many cases, to call this “self publishing”). I didn't do everything myself. I'd say my book was professionally produced, but my company was the publisher.
There are typos in books published by traditional publishers, as I blogged about here, including the first printings of the first edition of my book Lean Hospitals, and the book The Toyota Way by Jeff Liker.
It's quite common for textbooks (or famous novels) to have an “Errata” page (or pages!) inserted into the book that points out the mistakes in the printed book. When a publisher is doing traditional large-batch printing, they won't scrap and destroy copies with mistakes. So they insert that page. Is that a mistake? Probably not. It's probably necessary. But print-on-demand changes that dynamic.
We're all human. Teams and organizations are made up of humans. We all make mistakes. Proofreading is difficult. Trying to edit your own writing is even more difficult. Your eyes and brain can see things that aren't really there sometimes.
Finding Mistakes During My Audiobook Reading
Last week, across three days, I read the entire book to record the audiobook version (coming soon via Audible). It took about ten hours for me to read what will probably be six hours of audiobook. Why the extra four hours? Well, there's breaks that we take a long the way (we being me and the audio engineer / audiobook specialist).
And, I made mistakes in reading the audiobook. There were some mistakes I noticed:
- Stumbling over a word
- Saying the wrong word
- Just getting thrown off track with a weird pause
- My stomach growled loudly (yes, that got picked up by the microphone in the booth).
I'd stop. I'd try to practice the habit of being kind to myself in those moments. Mistakes happen.
The audio engineer, Jeff, caught some other stumbles and mistakes as I made them. Ones I hadn't noticed. I'm glad that I chose to come into his studio, in Louisville, to do the recording. This allowed him to give me real-time feedback as I read. And the sound quality was better in his professional booth.
I could have probably set up a space in my home, with my equipment, to do a recording that was high-quality from an audio perspective. But then I'd be sending a big batch of those audio files to Jeff for review… before inevitable rework.
It was easier for both of us to do the rework in real-time.
And then there were the mistakes in the book's text that I found as I reading — on to that in a minute.
I asked Jeff if anybody ever read their audiobook without finding mistakes. He thinks it might have happened just once in his experience. Finding mistakes is normal. Making mistakes is normal.
Of course, as Jeff edits and proofreads the audiobook, I'll very likely have to return to his studio to re-record a few small things. One of those things is something that was discovered by a reader AFTER I had done the audiobook recording.
Fixing the Book's Mistakes
Here was the process for finding a mistake as I read:
- Find the mistake in the text
- Write down that mistake on the list of “things to fix”
- Record the audio in a way that reflected the change
- Update the Kindle book file
- Upload the revised Kindle book to Amazon
- Mark up the final book PDF
- Send that PDF with edits to the book design people
- Wait to get that back
- Upload the new book PDFs to Amazon and IngramSpark (the retailer, printer, and/or distributor)
Thankfully, as the publisher, I'm operating in a “print on demand” world, so there's not a proverbial (or literal) garage or warehouse full of books with these mistakes.
Sharing the Mistakes
In the book's spirit and tone… that making mistakes is normal and sharing mistakes is good… this is an open letter to early buyers and readers of the book. I'm going to include a printed copy of this letter in print copies that I send out to people in the interim — until the fixes are applied to newly printed copies.
Letter to Early Readers
I regret to inform you that this copy of The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation that you hold in your hand contains… some mistakes. Well, the book might not be literally in your hand while you're reading this letter. My mistake.
As hard as my team and I tried, some mistakes slipped through the process of editorial review, copyediting, and proofreading. Mistakes were made in each of those stages, including typos, formatting, issues, and grammatical errors.
But, since one of the lessons in this book is “we all make mistakes” and that we should be kind to ourselves when we (or others) make them, I expected that the book wouldn't be 100% perfect. And that's OK. None of these mistakes are a matter of live or death. Nor are they career killers.
Since another theme in the book is that it's OK to share mistakes (when we feel psychologically safe to do so), I'm going to share the mistakes that we found while I recorded the audiobook version of this book (coming soon to Audible). I share these not to shame myself, but to try to lead by example and practice what I preach.
This list, of course, does not include the mistakes we mistakenly did not catch. 100% inspection is never 100% effective. If you find other mistakes in the book, please let me know at email@example.com.
Page 32: “The typical Texas summer heat means Garrison Brothers lose more of the evaporated “angel's share”… — Should read “Garrison Brothers loses more” since the name of the company is Garrison Brothers.
Page 37: “Jim owned–and avoided repeating this mistake” — Should be punctuated as Jim owned–and avoided repeating–this mistake.”
Page 39: “Press-box vantage views” should be “Press-box views”
Page 65: “but it disappeared” should be “but she disappeared” since this refers to a meeting attendee, not the document being shared
Page 78: Change the question “If not, how do we detect this, learn, and adjust?” to a statement, “If not, we need to detect this, learn, and adjust.”
Page 83: Add PhD after Amy Edmondson's name
Page 86: “as Dr. Mayer recalled” should refer to him as “David” as the rest of the story did
Page 97: “too fearful to forward ideas” should read “too fearful to bring forward…”
Page 97: “Punishing mistakes drives people underground” should refer to driving mistakes underground
Page 101: “lower malpractice rates” should read “lower malpractice insurance rates”
Page 104: “mixed them and feed the paint sprayers” should read “mixed them and fed…”
Page 119: Change the reference to “Alan” to “Mulally” for consistency”
Page 121: “Toyota makes mistakes like any other companies” should read “… like other companies” Note: This was a typo in the original text I cited
Page 133: “reduce the mistake of large mistakes” should read “reduce the chance of small mistakes”
Page 137: “an hypothesis” (British way of writing it) should be “a hypothesis”
Page 154: Change “in the 2023 edition of Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2023 North American Edition” to “in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2023 North American Edition“
Page 157: Change “Michael Hoseus” to “Mike…” for consistency
Page 175: “described later in the chapter” should refer to “earlier”
Page 176: “will driving” should read “will drive”
Page 179: “remind yourself that that's okay” should read “remind yourself that's okay”
A sharp-eyed reader caught a small factual error on page 98, where I wrote, “Edmondson conducted research with Google.” This mistake is a little embarrassing since Edmonson told me, in my own podcast that I cited, that she did not lead that research effort. The text will now read, “Edmondson says research conducted at Google…”
Management sincerely regrets the mistakes. Those responsible have been held accountable. Just kidding on that last part. Nobody has been punished or fired. But these mistakes are being fixed.
More importantly, I hope the book's content is engaging, thought-provoking, and helpful. That's probably the dimension of quality that matters most!
Author and Publisher of The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation
Those of you with early copies have a collector's edition! Yeah, that's the ticket!
My editor, Tom, challenged me to think about lessons learned. I don't regret hitting “publish” when I did. I wasn't erring on the side of wanting perfection over progress. What I'm still reflecting on, and working on, is being kind to myself (and others) 100% of the time when mistakes are made. That's my goal and my ideal–but like everybody, I fall short sometimes. I make mistakes. And that's normal. None of us are perfect.
I hope you don't think reading this post (or the book) was or is a mistake!
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Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation: