Business today is filled with examples of case studies and best practices, which are designed to draw lessons from success stories and help others apply those lessons into their own work. But what about the lessons we can learn from people’s mistakes?


At the Green Challenge, we believe that one of the best ways to learn is through mistakes. Making mistakes helps you realise what you are doing wrong, so that you can improve and develop even further. What’s more, learning from other people’s mistakes can be just as informative, so we have sought out some of our best mistakes to share with you.

Eben Bayer is no stranger to success. He is the winner of the 2008 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge and is also CEO and co-founder of Ecovative, a company that develops high performance biomaterials out of mushrooms for uses such as: packaging, insulation and automotive purposes. But it wasn’t a perfect path.



Focus on Your Strengths

According to Bayer, his best mistake was “believing that all people are equally flexible and can do any role.” This was the case when Ecovative was just getting started and they were hiring staff to develop the company. “We made a number of early hiring mistakes along these lines by not letting people focus on their strengths.” In other words, Ecovative hired people based on the assumption that employees could develop and improve their weaknesses during their time with the company.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way and Bayer learned the hard way that most people have defined areas of strength (where they can be very good), and areas where they simply can’t excel. For example, why encourage Mozart to develop his tennis skills, or ask an introverted engineer to focus on customer service? It makes more sense and is better for society as a whole, if people accept their weaknesses and play into their strengths instead. We can’t all be great at everything.


Be YourselfEben Bayer with Ecovative's Mushroom Materials packaging material

Bayer’s mistake helped him understand that his goal as a leader is “to align and hire folks who have strengths that support the organisation, and find ways to minimize or eliminate their weaknesses from their role.” By helping employees develop their strengths, instead of improve their weaknesses, Bayer has been able to build a company filled with the best talent for each role. To read more about Eben Bayer and his journey, you can visit his website.

People should focus on being themselves and on the areas where they can excel. That is where your greatest opportunities for success will emerge. As entrepreneurs to develop sustainability, this means aligning your passion with a mission that helps others, spending your time on that activity and then transforming it into a business.


Failure on the Path to Success

Inevitably, the path will be complex and mistakes will happen. As Japanese engineer and industrialist, Soichiro Honda, is often quoted: "Success is 99% failure."

Indeed, many of the most successful people we know today have faced failure and made mistakes on their path to success. What differentiates those people from the rest of the crowd, is their ability to be themselves, learn from their experiences, and keep going until they succeeded.