Maybe David Letterman’s Best Insight – “Lord Knows I’ll Be Screwing UP”

david-letterman.png“When I screw up now, and Lord knows I’ll be screwing up, I have to go on somebody else’s show to apologize.”
David Letterman, on his last show, May 20, 2015


I think we have trouble learning this…

We will screw up.
I will screw up.
You will screw up.

Your company, your organization, will get it wrong. Sometimes, the “getting it wrong” will be pretty big “getting it wrong.”

Recently, when I read Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, I was captivated by his practice of his “Braintrust” group at Pixar. The group exists to head off problems and fix problems. In other words, it is a “fix the screw ups” group. Here’s Catmull’s description, from his book:

The members of this group, which at some point we’d started calling the Braintrust, were proven problem solvers who worked magnificently together to dissect scenes that were falling flat.

Yes, even the creative geniuses at Pixar have scenes “falling flat.”

David Letterman’s simple and profound pronouncement from his last show has lingered with me.

“When I screw up, and Lord knows I’ll be screwing up…”

Not if I screw up,” but when I screw up.”  It is an important distinction.

David Letterman has made a mistake or two in his life, and seemingly handled them just right after he realized the depth of his mistake/failure. (Read his statement to Les Moonves from his last show. It is a masterpiece).

It all reminds me of a scripture (or two) I used to quote fairly often – “there is none righteous, no not one… &, All have sinned…”

Here’s what I think. Each company or organization needs a Braintrust, to head off mistakes, and to fix them when they happen.

And, if you or anyone on your team thinks that you will not make any more mistakes, well then… you really are kidding yourself.


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