To err and learn from it

June 15th, 2016 by Patricia Jehle Leave a reply »

Do you get smarter from your failures?

 

Fear of Failure?

I live in a fear-of-failure culture. It is hard for people around me to make, admit and accept failures. But we must make failures, after all, we are human.

 

I heard a wonderful talk on making (and learning from) mistakes by Dr. Theo Wehner of the ETH in Zürich a week ago and it has made me consider making mistakes again.

Perception is everything

It really depends on how we look at things- our perception of the failure is key- Thomas Edison said this of his some 9,000 mistakes before making a light bulb: “I know several thousand things that won’t work!” thus, he kept learning—and kept trying. Look what happened to him.

 

To err is human

We all make mistakes of several kinds under two main categories, deliberate and inadvertent:

 

Deliberate (non-compliance): routine, situational and exceptional

Inadvertent (error): Action (slip or lapse) and Thinking (rule or knowledge-based)

 

Reflect on the mistakes to learn from them

The question is why we made the mistakes. We must reflect upon them and learn from them. If we stuff our feelings about them or deny those mistakes, we cannot learn from them.

 

So, what should we do?

 

  • We need to get curious about those mistakes
  • We need to (perhaps) be coached regarding our mistakes
  • We need to deal with our emotions about the mistakes we make
  • We need to create working and living cultures where mistakes are okay and we can thus learn from them

 

Maybe starting from the last sentence would be best. I said that I live in a fear-of-failure culture. We have to begin there and remember that that very aspect of making mistakes and feeling something (like remorse) is what makes us human.

 

Think in Group Think

Perhaps our overly individual culture is part of the problem. Centuries ago we would have thought much more in a communal fashion, so much so that an individual could not have “failed” and a family or community would have failed together. If we took more responsibility for each others’ mistakes, we might learn more readily from mistakes.

 

Feel the Pain

We need to admit the emotions we feel when we fail and reflect on them, work through them, not ignore them or pretend they are not there. We need to let ourselves feel that pain.

 

Maybe we need coaching

Perhaps a non-involved party can help you work through the mistake and learn from it. When someone from outside of the problem comes along and helps you see the issue for what it is, it becomes smaller and more easily solved or – when completed – not something you need to repeat. After all, that is one of the big goals: to learn so as not to make the same mistake over and over again. Reflection is very important and a coach can help with that.

 

No denying, instead- be curious

But most of all, we need to become much more curious

In this case, curiosity will not kill the proverbial cat, but will allow you to get on with life and work. When we start to take a serious look at our mistake, we can learn from them and not fall into the trap of repeating the mistakes again.

 

Patricia Jehle

www.jehle-coacing.com

 

for more info:

 

https://hbr.org/2011/04/strategies-for-learning-from-failure

https://student.societyforscience.org/article/really-learn-fail-—-then-fail-again

http://www.hse.gov.uk/humanfactors/topics/types.pdf

 

 

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