The Anatomy of a Creative Apology - BusinessBlog : McGraw-Hill
Career Featured Leadership Motivation Personal Success

The Anatomy of a Creative Apology

Nir Bashan is the author of The Creator Mindset: 92 Tools to Unlock the Secrets to Innovation, Growth, and Sustainability. Receive a 30% discount on his book through 5/31/21 by visiting this link and using promo code BASHAN30.

We live in a world obsessed with getting it right all the time.  We have apps and productivity tools, systems and processes.  We even have software that tracks our relationships and Artificial Intelligence to make sure we are right 100% of the time.  Literally a billion-dollar industry exists out there to make sure we make no mistakes.  That we have perfect efficiency.  That we are able to knock it out of the park each and every time.  That we never have to say “I’m sorry” after making a mistake.

And while these tools of modernity have their benefit – I am after all writing this article on a machine that corrects my spelling as I type – there is a time and a place where a mistake will happen.  And how you react to the mistake when it happens can yield amazing creative potential. 

Yet most of us are so hesitant to say “I’m sorry”.  And it is so very difficult for us to admit mistakes and be vulnerable. So how do we do it?  What can help us become more creative by helping us admit our mistakes and allowing us to be vulnerable from time to time?

It turns out that there are 3 things you can do today to help grease the wheels of an apology and utter the words “I’m sorry”.  So in order to help you out, here are 3 creative ways that you can apologize today

1. Learn to Love What We Hate

I’m sorry.  It is something that we HATE to say.  And it is true across all cultures on earth – no matter who you are or where you are from – every human on earth hates to admit that they are wrong.  We hate it more than going to the dentist or getting stuck in traffic or paying for wifi. 

Yet when viewed creatively, an apology can be the start of something amazing.  A relationship rebuilt.  A trust restored.  And the best part is that it is something you can practice daily. 

Start when the consequence of your mistake is small.  Like when you forget to put the seat lid down or when you forget to call someone back.  Saying I’m sorry is a habit that can be learned once we practice it.  And taking small steps will yield to an easier time later down the road when the mistake you make will have more significance.

2. Do The Opposite of What Comes Naturally

Naturally, we are adverse to apologizing.  But if we are able to counter what comes naturally to us – however difficult initially – we are able to unlock the creative power of saying “I’m sorry”.  This doesn’t just work for admitting your mistakes, this works for a whole host of other things that prevent us from becoming more creative.  It turns out that naturally we are predisposed to the safe way out.  Each and every time.  And there is nothing safe about an apology.  You may spray fuel on the fire.  You may not get the reaction you want.  You may not get the other person to understand.  And that is exactly why we need to apologize.

When we do the opposite of what comes naturally, we put ourselves in a vulnerable situation and in that is potential for creative gold.  When we are vulnerable, we fight what comes naturally.  What comes naturally is we try our hardest NOT to be vulnerable!  But when we are vulnerable, we can sometimes to see a situation in a completely different light.  Because we let our guard down, we let creativity in.  That kind of light never shines when we are comfortable.  It can only come from stepping outside our natural disposition.

Try it today.  Say “I’m sorry” for a mistake and mean it.  You may discover a new and different creative outcome you never before imagined

3. Empathy Works

Everything you have ever done wrong – each and every mistake you have ever made – has been made by someone else at some point in time.  Without any doubt. 

Take a deep breath.  There is nothing new here.

This is something you can take comfort in. Because the human condition is so interconnected, there is literally nothing you are apologizing for that has not occurred at some point in the past.  It may be a late assignment.  Or a mix up in inventory.  It may be a lack of clear direction or a misguided approach. But no matter what the mistake is – it has happened before.

And since it has happened before, we can take comfort in the empathy that occurs when we say sorry.  We are connecting to a human truth by saying “I’m sorry”.  When we apologize the person or people who we apologize to instantly recognize that yes – they too have made some mistake at some point!  And that your mistake is not all that unique.  The empathy potential that this can spark is quite remarkable.

What ends up happening is that empathy that is sparked can awaken solutions that are creative.  Folks will try and help you solve your mistake.  They may say “What if we try this to help the mix up in inventory” or “how about we try a different approach”.  And then because you were empathic, the solution becomes something you can do together with others and that can have profound creative potential. 

Now that we have a fresh approach to saying “I’m sorry” – go out there and practice.  They say that practice makes perfect – and this is doubly true in saying “I’m sorry”.  You may see better results for you and your business.  You may even win back the trust lost to a foolish mistake.  But by simply following the three tools above you may just make the world a bit of a better place – one where an “I’m sorry” leads to creative innovation and problem solving.

To read more from Nir Bashan, check out his new book, The Creator Mindset.

Nir Bashan, founder and CEO of The Creator Mindset LLC, teaches business leaders how to harness the power of creativity to improve profitability, increase sales, and find more meaning in their work. His clients include AT&T, Microsoft, Ace Hardware, NFL Network, EA Sports, JetBlue, and many others. He has also worked on numerous albums, movies, and advertisements, winning a Clio Award and receiving an Emmy nomination for his creativity, and was one of the youngest professors ever selected to teach graduate courses at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He lives in Orlando, Florida. His new book is The Creator Mindset: 92 Tools to Unlock the Secrets to Innovation, Growth, and Sustainability (McGraw-Hill; August 2020). Learn more at and