This post on learning from mistakes is thought-provoking.  It will only take a couple of minutes to read.

I think she gives chance too much credit over outcomes and chose an example that does not translate well to business (playing the lottery).  All that aside, success doesn’t come without risk and risk does not come without the possibility of a negative outcome.  In many cases a negative outcome is considered a mistake.

The error in the clip above did not happen when the button was pushed.  It happened years before as noted in the analysis.  It is flawed thinking to consider something a mistake based on the outcome.  Mistakes don’t always happen when you see the result.

Its likely a mistake occurs in the planning stages.  You just find out about it later.  You prepared.  You did your analysis.  You made your plan.  You got input from others.  Somewhere in those preparations the “mistake” was made.  Was it flawed logic?  Was it unrealistic expectations?  Did something unforeseen happen?

I hope you never have to deal with a situation as serious as losing men in space.  However, there is something to learn from this scene.  When this team is problem solving, they are learning.  In a crisis you can’t sit back and document everything you are learning but you should not wait long after the crisis is resolved to reflect.  I like the summation of the article below.

There are costs and benefits of mistakes. Immediately after making a mistake, you see only the costs: you didn’t win; you didn’t get that account; you’re beating yourself up. But the benefits of a mistake are greater than the costs. Failure is a bigger departure from expectations. Basically, it’s the world telling you that you didn’t see it in best way to begin with.  If you ignore that, what have you learned? If I were a CEO, I would say these mistakes are corporate assets, and I paid for these. I need to learn from them.

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