The common phrase ‘To err is human’ is often heard in its fuller form ‘To err is human; to forgive, divine.’ It means that we humans are bound to make mistakes, and err while we live. But it is crucial that others forgive those who have made errors. Without this forgiveness, people will try to avoid the work they are doing. One thing for sure is that what we are talking are errors and nobody wants to make errors deliberately. But the slide above is a more realistic representation of the human thought process.
But there are some fields where errors are almost non-acceptable. These are the functions where human life is involved, for example, the medical field, the pilots, and so on. Errors in these fields can lead to loss of human life and/ or property. But that is another subject.
Sometimes we all lose our way. We are humans, after all. We make mistakes. We focus on the wrong things. We pursue goals at all costs. We waver on ethical and moral cliffs. We get too far down a slippery slope. We steal. We cheat. We lie. We deceive others. We deceive ourselves. We don’t open ourselves up to our friends. We see crime or fraud committed by our friends and colleagues, but we don’t speak out. These can be misjudgments by good people. In these moments we’re not the friend others deserve, the partner others choose, the child our parents raised, the epitome we wish to be, nor the person we’re capable of being. But does this mean that we should not get a second chance? Does it mean that we should be blamed throughout our lives? Should we be punished for life?
Take the case of Australian Cricketers Smith and Warner. They were caught planning and cheating to alter the ball condition in a test match; there was video evidence. They were sent back from the tour and banned from playing Cricket for one year. It was a great humiliation. Loss of face which happened because of a moment of indiscretion; the indiscretion was caused by an urge to try and win a test match at any cost, by any means. Were these players born cheats? Were they bad humans? I don’t think anybody is born that way. They learned their lesson, accepted the punishment with humility and fought their way back in the team by sheer performance. Last week, Smith was being punished the second time by booing crowd at the Oval in London in a World Cup game against India by mostly Indian group. The second part of the proverb came into play to the surprise of all. Their cricketing foe Virat Kohli gestured to the crowd, while batting, to cheer Smith instead of booing. Such magnanimity! To me, this gesture was more pleasing than the Indian victory. It showed how Humane Virat is! Later he said, “Smith was already punished; he has all the rights to make a comeback!”
It is not the failure that defines people; it is how they come back from disaster. It is already a bad thing that you stumbled, but it is worse if you do not want to change, improve and attempt to become the right person again.
What defines a mistake? What is an error? When we started living in an organised society thousands of years back, the society formed its own rules. The societal norms became acceptable by trial and error. In the absence of the concept of ownership in the pre-farming days, the standards were different. The idea of marriage and ownership did not exist. When couples had sex, there was no question of breaking the rules as there were no rules. Probably, only the mother knew about the birth father of the child. The concept of theft was not very serious, as almost no one owned anything.
But there are mistakes and errors which are the time honoured ones like a promise given to another human being. In today’s world of social media, we have too much data and information flowing in our direction. Add to this the travel time required in major cities, which has gone up. We have so many “friends.” It is moralistic thinking “to err and to forgive”. All these can lead to failure on our part to honour commitments.
But with modern society, new thought processes have also come into vogue.
This is a tongue in cheek slide which reflects on the current management principles. The rules and thoughts about erring are quite different because of politics in any organisation. Those who can win the political game, win the race. Forgiveness be damned! This my friends is real life! Proverbs and sayings are for mere mortals not for hotshot managers!
This slide, of course, is looking at the new technology with humour. Computers have made life quite simple for us. At the same time, we are becoming over-dependent on computers. How can the computer make a mistake is a real question? The way computers process data and information for us is totally dependent on how we humans have programmed it. To correctly program the computer, those writing the program should understand the subject in details. Advice from domain experts is critical. I will share one professional experience with you. We had sold a software product to a multinational for their business processes. Later on, the GST regime started. We had made our product GST compliant. From the customer side, they had a top-notch management company to advise them on the subject. Some changes were needed in their SAP. We called for a meeting to check the compatibility of our system. We found that the knowledge of the domain team from consultants was not adequate. With our experience, we knew that in such a complicated situation, a smaller vendor is declared erroneous! Might is always right. But we made sure that we were perfect and their system was tweaked to match our policy.
So in the real world, the mighty is always right, they never err! So it is necessary to avoid errors or mistakes. Also, it is essential that the whole world knows about it. But in personal life, forgiveness works, and you don’t need to blow your trumpet! Forgiveness reminded me of a story.
A thief is caught after some theft in his village. His mother comes to see him at the police station. Before being taken away, he requests a private meeting with his mother. He embraces her and bites her ear. She screams, but the thief says, “Mom, I always used to steal things in school, but you never reprimanded me, in fact, you almost praised me. Your forgiveness was wrong as you never scolded me. Look now, I have become a thief!”