Surely the statement, “mistakes are essential for interior design business success” is a no-brainer? Because interior design is a creative industry. And the definition of creativity is, “the ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas”. Therefore, interior designers need space and time to make mistakes so they can be creative.

However, in the midst of day-to-day reality, this theory often doesn’t hold true. As we regularly label our mistakes as failures. And we tend to have a fear of failure. With good reason. Failure can be embarrassing. More than that, in the professional setting, failure can be costly. Many glittering corporate careers have hit the buffers due to a single high-profile error.

As a consequence, we can keep plugging away with the same idea, the same approach, the same design. Even when we know there are better alternatives. Because this way we can deny any mistakes. Deny any failure.

The sad irony is that fear of failure is the exact opposite of what we need for interior design success. It’s essential that we embrace our mistakes so that we remain creative. But how?

What Interiors Designers May Do

Regularly interior designers take the opportunity to embrace their mistakes in a way that is detrimental to their firm. After several years of investment by their employer, talented designers leave the practice that first hired them. To deliver their best work on behalf of someone else. Often themselves. And to rub salt in the wound, they usually take clients with them. The root cause of this exodus is commonly feelings of frustration and lack of fulfillment caused by curtailed creativity. Assisted by organisational cultures that support a never-ending stream of time-constrained projects. And restrict key decision-making to the directors, with little input from anyone else.

How Interior Design Firms Can Change the Pattern

What can practices do to turn inevitable mistakes into catalysts for interior design success? That’s to say, improved staff retention, higher productivity, and more creativity? Of course, there could be a whole catalogue of opportunities. But let’s concentrate on just two

If you’re a director of a firm, ask yourself a question. What is it that drives your ambition? Is it autonomy? Responsibility? Or the ability to set your own creative direction? If it drives your ambition, then it’s likely to drive the aspirations of others. Empowering employees with greater creative freedom and input into key organisational decisions will do wonders for their engagement. As a result, staff turnover will reduce. And productivity will rise.

Avoid the temptation for the project concept big reveal. Firms can see the concept reveal as an opportunity to ‘wow’ the client. But the associated pressure can stifle creativity. Because fear of getting it wrong sends us back down tried and tested routes. Instead, take a little and often approach with clients. Provide the concept to them in frequent bite-size chunks. This not only allows for trial and error which is crucial for creativity. The regular engagement of the client will foster trust. And reduce the tendency for clients to build contingency into project timelines.

Mistakes Stimulate Creativity

In the words of Albert Einstein, “A person that never made a mistake has never tried anything new”. And pursuing new ideas, through trial and error, is fundamental to interior design. Without this pursuit, with its inevitable misfires and restarts, we stifle creativity. This is why mistakes are essential for interior design success.


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