The value of saying sorry

I haven’t written for quite a while but a recent situation with work has provided me with a lesson I want to share.

This week I made a mistake at work with some data. Not a big mistake, but enough that an email was sent to around 300 of our membership who shouldn’t have received that particular email.

If that had happened to you, what would you have done? Hid in a corner and hoped no-one noticed? Denied all knowledge and blamed someone else?

This very week I had an email of apology from a well-known supermarket chain who had sent an incorrect email to me, and we chose to take a similar approach by holding our hands up, apologising and taking the opportunity to engage with those individuals in a more personal way.

And the response?

Well really good. Of the 300 emailed, 20% had already responded back within five hours to thank us and provide their latest personal information and some even offered ways they may wish to re-engage and give back to the community.

This is the response we had hoped for, and somewhat expected, but the strength of the response has still taken us somewhat by surprise.

And so what have we learnt from this?

  1. Mistakes happen: No matter how how robust your processes or good your people, mistakes will always happen. And especially the more complicated the work you are doing
  2. Don’t be afraid to say sorry: Our natural reaction to making a mistake might be to want to shift the blame or pretend it hasn’t happened, especially if the consequences of holding our hands up may be unclear or unfavourable. We need to fight our natural tendencies as saying sorry, aside from just being the ‘right thing to do’ is important for our businesses and in creating communities. Just  think, what would you want someone to do to you?
  3. Be honest and transparent: Following on from saying sorry, it is important that our communications are open, honest and transparent. How else will our communities trust us? And it’s not just about gaining trust, honesty unities communities and teams. Margaret Heffernan talks about this in her article “Make the most of your mistake
  4. Find ways to use your mistakes for good: Where appropriate, look for opportunities to use your mistakes for good, whether for your business, staff or wider society. If you can, take the opportunity to use your communications to engage your community further
  5. Learn from them: Even if you can make something good from your mistakes, it doesn’t mean that you want to make the mistake again and so learn from them, fix the processes and work out ways to make sure they don’t happen again.


Well my organisation is again a Superbrand (for the fifth time).

When we think about the notion of a brand, we often confuse it with the visual identity; logo and style. However in the true nature of a brand, it is all about what the perception of the product, organisation or service is. As Jay Ehret says “It is the emotional and psychological relationship you have with your customers”.

So what emotions, thoughts, ideas are conjured up when you look at some of the examples of the brand above. If you have had no connection with the organisation before, you will probably have very little to say about it, other than perhaps recognising the artistry involved.

However if you have every had the joy of connecting with Warwick Business School, I hope you see these alternive logos as a creative and dynamic way of representing the true spirit or nature of the School; entrepreneurial, creating inspired and interesting individuals, looking at things differently.

Whether you like the individual logo styles or not, you must agree that the very creation of them is in an effort to live out the true brand of the organisation.

I would be really interested to hear what you think – let me know.