Recorded Panel Discussion: Cultivating a Culture of Learning from Mistakes at KaiNexus and Beyond


I hosted and participated in a live online panel discussion on Thursday as part of the KaiNexus Continuous Improvement Webinar series.

The recording can be found at the link below and on YouTube. Scroll down also for the preview discussion that Greg and I had.

Panel: Cultivating a Culture of Learning from Mistakes

I was joined by four other KaiNexus leaders:

  • Kym Guiliotti, Director of Product
  • Greg Jacobson, Co-founder & CEO
  • Maggie Millard, VP of Customer Experience
  • Linda Vicaro, Senior Lean Strategist

As KaiNexus co-founder and CEO Greg Jacobson, MD says,

“You can't have a culture of continuous improvement without learning from mistakes.”

Join us for a panel discussion featuring five KaiNexians who will share stories and reflections about cultivating a culture of psychological safety, where people feel safe to speak up about mistakes (or other opportunities for improvement) and also feel safe to try improvements and innovations.

The panel is being moderated by Mark Graban, who has been a senior advisor to KaiNexus since 2011. He loves talking about mistakes in his podcast “My Favorite Mistake” and also wrote (and published) a new book that includes stories from KaiNexus: The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation.

If you attend the live session, you'll also be able to ask questions about our lessons learned about cultivating a culture at KaiNexus and how this might benefit you, your team, and your organization.

Here is a preview discussion that I had with Greg Jacobson, with a transcript below.


Mark Graban: Hi, everybody. Welcome to the “KaiNexus Continuous Improvement” podcast. I'm Mark Graban.

Today, we are doing a preview of our next webinar. It's a panel discussion, webinar format. It's titled “Cultivating a Culture of Learning from Mistakes.” It's going to be held Thursday, July 27th, 1:00 to 2:00 Eastern if you are able to join us live.

You can register for that at or look in the show notes or the video description for the specific link. If you are listening to or watching this after July 27th, you'll be able to go check out the recording, either through this podcast feed or the YouTube channel.

I'm really excited. We're going to have four panelists from KaiNexus. We're joined by one of those panelists today for the quick preview.

On Thursday, we're going to have Kym Guiliotti. She's the Director of Product for KaiNexus, Maggie Millard, Vice President of Customer Experience, Linda Vicaro, Senior Lean Strategist, and joining us today, Greg Jacobson, one of the co-founders and our CEO.

Greg, how are you?

Greg Jacobson: I'm doing great, Mark. I'm really, really excited about our panel coming up. I think it's a compelling topic.

I think what's interesting is we have a number of people that are joining that 10, 15 years or 15-plus years of experience in some really varied areas. We have someone that has a lot of lean background in multiple different industries. We have someone who…That, of course, is Linda Vicaro.

Kym Guiliotti, interestingly enough, was going down the PhD route and fell into product and has 10-plus years of experience with product.

Then, Maggie Millard, who had probably done every job here at KaiNexus. We always joke we'll all be working for Maggie someday.

A really provocative conversation.

Mark: We're going to be talking a lot, I think, about the culture at KaiNexus, which I tried to highlight in different ways. I think it's a noteworthy environment to try to share.

I think we'll all have opportunities to reflect on other workplaces, common themes, and common threads of not just learning from KaiNexus, but what others can do to try to have a culture of learning from mistakes.

Greg: I think it's interesting. Just thinking a little bit about my thoughts here. One, your podcast has really gotten me thinking a lot about mistakes when you had me on it.

I should just mention the book that you have that just came out, “The Mistakes That Make Us.”

Mark: Funny you should mention. Here, I have a copy handy. There we go.

Greg: But artistry on that, by the way. Very crafty.

I think it's interesting. There used to be, in the startup culture or startup community…Maybe it was four, five, six years ago. Everyone was talking about failure. “I don't ever invest in someone that has a startup unless they've failed a couple of times.”

That always really frustrated me because failure is something…I'm never looking for failure or want failure. Obviously, we can't be afraid to move forward because of failure.

I really like the fact that you have gotten really curious about mistakes because mistakes feel like they have less weight than failure. Failure seems so big. A mistake feels like, “Oh, it's something that happens. Let's go explore it. Let's see what we can learn from it.”

I think there's a huge amount that we can think about and learn from mistakes.

Mark: Yeah. Failure is, I think, very absolute sounding, where I think if we're able to learn from mistakes and adjust, we can prevent big failures. We can, maybe, have small-scale failures.

You're right. There's a lot of this language. Silicon Valley language or tech startup language. Fail early, fail often.

I don't want to fail often. Maybe fail early, learn, improve, pivot, whatever word you want to use. Fail early, then succeed.

Greg: Right, or maybe just, instead of…I think what it…Now that we're thinking about as we're talking through it, I think that there is a…In the startup world, you envision going down these routes, these paths. If you have some kind of…

If you were omniscient and you knew where the path was going to end up, instead of having to go down the 10 miles, the 20 miles, the 100 miles of the path and then find out you're not in a good place, I think the thought there would be, “If you could somehow figure out in the first mile or the second mile,” but that's just not how life works.

In one, there isn't some set path. We talk about lean. We talk about continuous improvement. We talk about that being a journey. A journey signifies that there is an infinite number of places that you could end up going.

I still want to say that I do not like the concept of fail early, fail fast, and I really like the concept of not being paralyzed by indecision. Recognize you are going to make mistakes. You'll probably make numerous mistakes throughout the day.

I made a mistake of sitting on a chair that has this weird squeak and I can't move in my chair.

Mark: You're doing a good job of keeping still. I haven't heard it.

Greg: I think it's a really…I'm really excited to…I read different parts of the book coming out, but I'm really excited to dive into the entire text.

Oh, and you had just mentioned, not to bring up your book again and go backwards in our conversation. I've done the audio aspects of that. What mistakes happened there that you learned from?

Mark: You cut out with that last part. What mistakes did I learn from what?

Greg: …mistakes happened when you did the audio portion that you learned from that for your next book? I'm already talking about your next book, or maybe mistakes that happened that you could bring into your podcasting realm and your webinar realm and improve those.

Mark: I'm personally not real shy about admitting mistakes, especially when there's something to be learned from them. I've made a lot of podcasting mistakes. I've made a lot of mistakes with the book.

You catch a lot of those mistakes. There's professional copy editing. There's proofreading. Then, when I sat down…I was standing up in a sound booth to really read through the book for the purposes of doing audio recording.

We found, on average, maybe one little thing, one little mistake per chapter that still got through the proofreading. Minor stuff, but OK, well, you make a note and you record it the way it should be. Then, there's a cycle of iteration, now, with the book in Kindle format and print formats.

In a print-on-demand world, the book is like software. You can put out a new release. None of the mistakes were bad enough to try to recall what was already out there.

But yeah, there were mistakes that were found, and then there were mistakes made in the course of reading. Mistakes that I would notice, go back, and we would redo. There would be mistakes the audio engineer noticed that I hadn't noticed.

He would stop me and we'd go try again. As he was going through and doing the editing, he found six or seven little, tiny, minor things that I actually had to come back into the studio, then to reread. He'll do the editing and fix it.

It's like saying one word when I should have said another word. I think if you're reading smoothly, you're looking ahead a little bit and not just word, word, word, word, word. Then, I think inevitably, sometimes your mouth gets ahead of your eyes or vice versa. I just read the wrong word.

All fixable. I'd say those are little mistakes but there was no failure. I wouldn't call it that.

Greg: I think it's important, if you're creating a culture…I don't want to go as far as say to celebrate mistakes, but I do think I'd go as far as to say to celebrate learning from mistakes.

Mark: Yes.

Greg: That, I think…There's a slight nuance there that's important because, all of a sudden, now a mistake becomes an opportunity not only for yourself but for your entire team or even the entire company to learn from and hopefully, not do again.

Mark: Celebrating the learning and the progress. I think we can strike the right balance.

There's some settings…You still work as an ER doc and you actually lent an example that's in the book of giving the wrong dose of a medication to a patient. You don't want…Those are things we would consider preventable.

We don't want to “celebrate” it, but we certainly need to make sure that people feel open to disclose what happened so that we can learn from it and prevent the next version of that error that could be really harmful to a patient. We can celebrate the learning.

That's such a great example of, oftentimes, the mistake can uncover a process issue that…

Greg: Even though that mistake…Even though you gave 800 milligrams of ibuprofen and you only meant to give 400 milligrams, the chance that was going to create a negative impact to your patient is pretty low.

But maybe it's not ibuprofen. Maybe it's a cardiac arrhythmic medication that doubling the dose of literally could kill someone. That same process problem that happened that led you to go from 800 to 400 of ibuprofen would be the exact same process that could allow you to double a cardiac medication.

Mark: I think there's different types of mistakes. I tried to explore this in the book and some of the nuances of what's a mistake in a repeatable manufacturing process that would cause a quality problem or a mistake in a healthcare process.

Those are a different environment than when we're trying to innovate or do things in a new way where the risk of a “mistake” is low. If we don't celebrate, maybe we could embrace or even cherish those mistakes.

So many guests who have come on “My Favorite Mistake” have said, “If you're not making any mistakes, you're not really innovating.” I think that context matters sometimes, too.

Greg: You're probably not only not innovating, but you're probably not being honest with yourself. Humans are fallible. To say that someone makes no mistakes, that absolutist, it always makes you raise an eyebrow.

Mark: I will point, in the show notes again, Greg's episode, when he was a guest on My Favorite Mistake. Usually, people have one story. Sometimes two. Greg, you were an overachiever. You had five favorite mistakes that we'll encourage people to go and listen to.

It's not that the episode was five times longer than usual, but you shared a lot.

Greg: I don't remember the five mistakes I gave. I feel like one of them was go do your own due diligence. Don't make a decision because someone else made a decision. I remember that one.

Mark: One was about…I think you said in the past you didn't read enough.

Greg: Oh, yeah. The thing is, is the way I've solved that, Mark, interestingly enough, is that I have turned to a habit of listening. Now, with the amount of podcasts and the amount of audiobooks, it's really allowed me to solve that mistake, if you will, and I'm able to consume way more than I would have ever.

I think one of them may have been about giving feedback early. I don't know if that was one of them. That's a mistake I had made in the past. i try not to do that again.

It sounds like I might need to go back to that episode and…I don't know.

I always think you have five fingers on a hand, assuming you are phenotypically the way most humans are. Then, why not have five mistakes that you get, right?

Mark: I'll put a link to that episode, again. There are stories, some of which we might touch on during the panel on Thursday, or at least to talk about the culture. There are some of those storied in the book. The book, again, is The Mistakes That Make Us.

Thank you, Greg, and others at KaiNexus who are working to cultivate this culture and helping generate stories that help illustrate that culture.

I'm happy to be able to share that with people. I hope it's helpful and inspiring.

Again, no company's perfect. I feel safe saying this to Greg as a co-founder and CEO. KaiNexus isn't perfect. Nobody's perfect, but there are good things going on. We'll continue cultivating the garden, if you will. Right?

Greg: Absolutely.

I hope this has compelled you enough to listen in to the longer form and, probably, with smarter people. We're bringing in some people to round this out that, I think, have some varied experience and will add to this conversation quite nicely.

Mark: Yep.

Again, that's going to be Thursday, July 27th, 1:00 Eastern. Panel discussion on cultivating a culture of learning from mistakes. Myself, Greg, three other KaiNexians, leaders, and senior leaders in the organization.

Then, I'm going to throw this out as a teaser for Thursday because I love…There's something Greg shared with me that I quoted him as saying in the book. I agree with the statement. I'm going to ask Greg to elaborate on Thursday in the panel.

You can't have a culture of continuous improvement without learning from mistakes.

Greg: I summed it up quite nicely. We'll do…exploring that further and really unpacking that.

Thank you, Mark, for putting us on and making this happen. I'm really looking forward to it.

Mark: Me, too. Again, you can go to If you're listening or watching before July 27th, you can look for the registration link. If you are finding this afterwards and you want to go check out that longer discussion, you'll be able to find it in the KaiNexus webinar library. Go to, look for the big old button that says “Webinar Recording Library“.

Greg, thank you for doing the preview today. Thanks in advance for Thursday.

Greg: Thank you, Mark. I'll see you KaiNext time.

Mark: KaiNext time.

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Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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