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Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes - But Some Do
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Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes - But Some Do

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  8,577 ratings  ·  726 reviews
An eye-opening, Gladwellian look at the power of a positive attitude toward failure and its profound impact on our success in any field.

In the airline industry, failure is taken seriously. Every aircraft is equipped with an almost indestructible black box. When there is an accident, the box is opened, the data is analyzed, and the reason for the accident excavated. This en
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Portfolio (first published September 8th 2015)
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Nazrul Buang I'm about fifty pages into the book, and I agree. I can see why the book is insightful (although not groundbreaking per se) for several reasons: 1) th…moreI'm about fifty pages into the book, and I agree. I can see why the book is insightful (although not groundbreaking per se) for several reasons: 1) the writing is succinct and easy to digest; 2) his message is clear, and 3) his instances drive home his points. He makes persuasive arguments on why some organizations don't learn from their mistakes, some systemic while others are psychological, and draws wisdom from other prominent scientists to prove his points.

It summarizes what many other scientists have mentioned, encapsulated into a coherent book.(less)

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Start your review of Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes - But Some Do
This came highly recommended by the friend who lent me it but it seems to have taken me forever to finish it. The central point and some of the examples are interesting but to me it just said the same thing over and over again. Relieved to have finished it, to be honest !
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
What a great book! For a nonfiction, it would be remarkable easy to read for those who don't usually read nonfiction. It's filled with so many examples from so many industries that I can't even remember them all; from medicine, aviation, Unilever detergent nozzles, DreamWorks movies, law enforcement, vacuum cleaners, and even child welfare social workers.

The book tackles a number of important aspects of failure, such as the idea of complexity and how the world we live in is an immensely complex
Mario Tomic
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
How do some learn from mistakes and become better while others never seem to improve? What if the problem is that no one has taught us how to deal with failure? This brilliant book reveals a framework for how to use mistakes as learning tools and transform short-term failures into long-term success. The book is full of engaging stories and interesting anecdotes on how the human psyche has the potential to deal with failure in a variety of ways. For me, one of the most interesting parts was the o ...more
Maddie Browse
I don't rate non-fiction so here is a quick review!

The overall concept of this was really interesting, I especially enjoyed the focus on how mistakes are reported and acted upon to inform future events! The fact that in so many industries mistakes are hidden for fear of getting in trouble is terrifying, and I feel I also learnt from a personal development perspective that making mistakes and learning from them isn't a bad thing, but is in fact incredibly important and the quickest and easiest wa
Cassandra Kay Silva
I really liked the anecdotal stories in this book. They were fun and interesting. It also gave me a lot of food for thought on the way that large corporate organizations and complex structures are managed. Even in smaller areas we often talk about how people don't leave a workplace, they leave a manager- this idea is extrapolated further to understand how the broader company culture affects overall performance and output based on fear of reprimand vs reward of change. I really liked this approac ...more
Brian Johnson
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modern-classics
“In this book we will examine how we respond to failure, as individuals, as businesses, as societies. How do we deal with it, and learn from it? How do we react when something has gone wrong, whether because of a slip, a lapse, an error of commission or omission, or a collective failure…? …

The purpose of this book is to offer a radically different perspective. It will argue that we need to redefine our relationship with failure, as individuals, as organizations, and as societies. This is the mos
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sonny Recio
Jun 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Black box thinking starts by storytelling the undeniable mistakes in the healthcare sector, particularly with the case of Elaine Bromiley's. It appears that healthcare industry was not open to mistakes that are happening inside especially if the case was life-threatening because the whole industry encourages 0% mistakes since they're dealing with life itself. Any mistakes made will be costly and unforgivable. With this, the author clearly stated that mistakes are essential and responsible for th ...more
Huyen Chip
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book made me think of applying black box thinking to writing. Why can't we publish a MVP of a book and iterate on it? ...more
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this a totally fascinating and thought provoking read. It looks at a subject which we tend to try and avoid in the twenty first century - failure. The culture is to cover up failures and not talk about them or even think about them. The author uses examples from the airline industry, medicine, inventions and many other backgrounds - including the industrial revolution - to illustrate failures which can be very useful and instructive.

If you have had recent experience of a medical situatio
Samson Sunny
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
In this book author says we have to give more importance to failures. We need to track the failure and note why and how we failed. This information will help us to improve the future steps that we are taking. Failing information is very important. All the innovation comes from many failures all successful people failed many times. It is not they are talented. They practised well and they took serious about their failure and they learnt from it.

This book giving so many examples that reduces the
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is hereby truthfully resolved by yours truly that he shall no longer fear actualising failure. He shall henceforth embrace failure as a learning tool by recording all the actions, in-actions and inertias in a personal blackbox. The blackbox shall reviewed without fear or favour. Hard questions shall be asked when results are below par.
No longer shall he wait for the perfect product. Instead the prototype shall be launched as per the deadline as is where is. Iteration as a process is hencefort
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marvellously easy to read. The story of the BA pilot will break your heart. Really good ideas and well articulated
This book provided me with more useful information than my college education.
Matas Kaminskas
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
It's a really good read ! ...more
Ivan Tchernev
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: productivity, mind
I'm going to start failing a lot more in life now, and it's all thanks to Matthew Syed. Thank goodness for him.

Black Box Thinking is a book about failure, and how far, far too many aspects of our lives take exactly the wrong approach to it. His central argument is that nothing is more central to personal, systemic and societal progress than an open, honest and healthy approach to failure. Researched and supported by an exhaustive list of examples, the book was a pleasure to read, and I hope that
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very compelling read on why failure is crucial for progress. Syed manages to convey his points with great anecdotes and really brings to life what could be quite a dry subject. Highly recommended.
Dunja *a chain reader*
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely great, mind-blowing book.
Oliver Clarke
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve read a few books like this lately, partly because there is a crossover with my day job, but mostly because I like ideas. This was definitely the best. It’s an extremely well written and engrossing examination of a simple concept, that failure is valuable because it helps us get better. Unlike some other similar books it never felt like it outlived it’s welcome. The examples used to illustrate the point were well chosen and often grippingly relayed. I was surprised at what a page turner ‘Bla ...more
David Msomba
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great insight on how we should build a culture of analysing and learning from our mistakes and failures.

I learn alot from the many great examples and case studies that the author has outline throughout this book.

I do believe is a culture that we real need to cultivate not only on personal level but many fields that keep cultivating denialism of failure, cognitive dissonance and keep on embracing cover up altitude,when comes to understand why they fail.

I cant recommend this enough.
Dipra Lahiri
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self, 2019
Well researched, compelling stories that illustrate the key theme - that failure and the willingness to learn from it, leads to success. Corporates would do well to adopt this mindset.
Alex Go
Jun 05, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021-reads
The book has interesting points on learning from failure and not playing the blame game, but it could have been much more succinct. I especially enjoyed the examples in the Healthcare and Criminal Justice spaces. Syed gave great insights into the structures that propagate blame instead of learning.
Temuujin Nyamdavaa
Black Box Thinking is an unique book about failure as well as how to make use of mistake to bounce back from adversity. Matthew Syed, who also wrote another bestseller Bounce, which I haven’t yet read, offered us totally different view of failure and success with his work. To be honest, before reading this book, I reckon that failure is uncomfortable situation that should be avoided. But, now I have a totally different insight into it. The book starts with a totally new perspective about failure ...more
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My last three years' books were so average that i didn't even want to mention them here. Black Box thinking encouraged me to restore my goodreads account and rate it.
The main idea of the book is about learning from failures and ideas might be similar with Growth Mindset by Dweck. However, the design and the way how the topic is introduced and developed is just great. MUST-READ book!
An Te
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a compelling book. It is assumed in this book that errors just occur and are a natural part of life and its concomitant complexities. Its main thrust concerns the articulation of two different cultures in dealing with this complexity. The first is the shut down of all inquiry and learning through pre-emptive blame. The second is the just culture of thorough investigations into the underlying factors that have contributed to the error that established a learning culture and growth mindset ...more
LaMarr D
Mar 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Black Box Thinking" is phenomenal! It forces you to think deeply about the decisions you have made personally and professionally – and more importantly, the failures as a result of those decisions. No matter if you are an employee or an entrepreneur, the book also compels you to think about how your company makes its decisions and how things can be improved in your work environment. The way we have been conditioned and taught to view failure is wrong and, in Syed’s view, we should embrace failu ...more
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you are looking for a warm and fuzzy book with step by step instructions on how to learn from your mistakes this isn’t the book for you.

I will admit - that is what I came into the book expecting.

What I got was SO much more.

Riddled with real life stories, examples and scientific evidence this book really breaks down the psychological issues and games we play not only as individuals but as organizations to avoid, deny and even penalize failure and how much it hurts us to do so.

I love the real
Ardon Pillay
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
“A good pilot always evaluates what’s happened, so that he can apply what’s learned”

The words of Viper from Top Gun ring quite strongly after a read of this book. It’s a very well weighted consideration of why we take failure at face value as a bad thing, and sometimes even ignore it, out of a need to delude ourselves into thinking that we are as good as we think we are.

Syed argues that acknowledging failure is the right way to go; after all, even with the cleverest people on the planet, every
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: decision-making
Fantastic. If you liked Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow, you will like this.

Syed examined the consequences of engaging in heuristic errors, as all of us do. There was a wonderful and heavy focus on decision making in criminal justice and medicine. What would it take to ensure fairer outcomes? How are we preventing such outcomes? Do we want to *feel* like we are making a difference more than we *actually* want to make a difference? What are the real goals when handing out justice or med
Feb 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book and thought it was well delivered, but unfortunately didn't find too much original material here, this book focuses a lot on problem-solving in medicine and in aviation if you haven't read too much on these subjects then I would recommend this book. ...more
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Matthew Syed is an author and highly acclaimed speaker in the field of high performance. He has written six bestselling books on the subject of mindset and high performance – Rebel Ideas, Bounce, Black Box Thinking, The Greatest, and his celebrated children’s books, You Are Awesome and The You Are Awesome Journal – and has worked with many leading organisations to build a mindset of continuous im ...more

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“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” 31 likes
“Studies have shown that we are often so worried about failure that we create vague goals, so that nobody can point the finger when we don’t achieve them. We come up with face-saving excuses, even before we have attempted anything.

We cover up mistakes, not only to protect ourselves from others, but to protect us from ourselves. Experiments have demonstrated that we all have a sophisticated ability to delete failures from memory, like editors cutting gaffes from a film reel—as we’ll see. Far from learning from mistakes, we edit them out of the official autobiographies we all keep in our own heads.”
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