More on failure, learning and decision making

Dave Snowden makes this point often in presentations, podcasts and publications, “Tolerated failure imprints learning better than success”.

Oscar Wilde is supposed to have said, “Experience is the name that everyone gives to his mistakes.”

The problem is that we have to acknowledge failure before we can learn from it. That acknowledgment is best when it is ‘to yourself’ but it doesn’t hurt for someone to simply say, “this is wrong, a mistake, a disaster”. I’ve been confronted constantly over the years with people who have an obvious failure but just don’t acknowledge it to themselves and no-one will tell them for fear of seeming rude, insensitive, over-bearing and the list can go on and on. Obviously, no effort is then made to try to fix it, try to understand it, etc. This applies to small and huge failures. An example of a small failure are webpages that don’t work but could easily be fixed with a bit of redesign or just simple editing the html code. An example of a big failure are complicated computer systems that don’t work but could be analyzed and assessed before banging in the next big system which is likely to fail for almost the same reason. Failure is fine if we can learn from it but what is all too common is that the failure is ignored, forgotten and repeated. I’ve posted on this earlier about how to make it easier to acknowledge failure here.

Take a look at the video from Daniel Kahneman. The Nobel Laureate says organizations should think of decisions like any other product, and apply quality controls.
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