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Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  4,502 ratings  ·  420 reviews

What links the Mercedes Formula One team with Google?

What is the connection between Dave Brailsford's Team Sky and the aviation industry?

What links the inventor James Dyson and the basketball player Michael Jordan?

They are all Black Box Thinkers.

Whether developing a new product, honing a core skill or just trying to get a critical decision right, Black Box Thinkers aren't

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published September 10th 2015 by John Murray (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)…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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4.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,502 ratings  ·  420 reviews

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Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Brian Johnson
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
This book provided me with more useful information than my college education.
Sonny Recio
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
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
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
Myles Cowper-Coles
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.
An Te
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
"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
Feb 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dr Dinesh
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book starts off in a great way, touching a topic that is close to my heart. How medicine is taught to be an exact subject, but a lot of it is a result of experiments that can improve. We can improve healthcare, if only we position it as a learning system and remove the stigma and blame associated with failure.
The insights in the book do fade a little as you progress. I was looking for concrete methods to improve and rather found evidence being piled upon for the same message again and again.
Andrius Senulis
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Lots of very interesting and even shocking stories and their analyses showing how and why organizations are able and unable to learn from their mistakes and evolve. Shows how costly can be the outcomes of medical and judicial organization that hide their mistakes instead of learning from them. The book explains the cognitive dissonance phenomenon and makes you realise how widespread it is and how big of a damage it creates.
Mihai Stanimir
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Learn how to find your mistakes and use them to your advantage.
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
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book enlightens the reader about how different industries deal with failure and mistakes.
It provides the reader with lots of insights, examples and evidence why some people indeed never learn from their mistakes.

Everyone of us makes mistakes, every day, but what's most important is how you deal with your mistakes. If you're prone to understand what went wrong and how, and look for a solution or improvement, you'll teach yourself a meaningful lesson. Otherwise, what will happen is that you'
Ting Tong
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I learned how errors are differently handled in aviation and healthcare and what outcomes are. Ones try to embrace mistakes and tries to learn from to prevent it in the future, others try to cover up it of the fear or attitude towards errors.
I liked the examples of marginal gains and randomized controlled trials. "if you break down a big goal into small parts, and then improve on each of them, you will deliver a huge increase when you put them all together". Great, inspiring stories about form
Koen Wellens
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
As the author explains, Black Box Thinking is not about thinking about certain things as ‘black boxes’, things that we don’t know (or want to know) the internals from. Instead, it’s an analogy to the aviation sector, where black boxes are used to learn and improve the flight processes.

Read the full review at my blog.
Travis Bow
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really interesting book. Kind of standard for this type of book; stories that run through each chapter with analysis and studies sprinkled throughout each chapter. The main points - that iterative learning from our mistakes is super valuable and that we ignore it a lot and psychologically block ourselves from learning from our mistakes (trying to shape the world to our perceptions instead of the other way around) - are pretty solid.

The only fly in the ointment is that the author makes some sw
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It compares the culture in aviation to healthcare in terms of their ability and willingness to learn from failure. It made me think hard about the culture in banking - especially in the light of all the regulatory reforms. Have we created a closed loop system there? Read it and let me know....
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting read about the importance of learning from failures and the repercussions of not confronting our failures. Strong concept, but the narrative gets derailed midway and some examples seem force fitted. The author ends up doing exactly what he warns the readers against- oversimplifying life and rationalizing the results in hindsight.
Dunja *a chain reader*
Absolutely great, mind-blowing book.
Alex Nagirny
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could give at least 6 stars: mind-changing.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Phew-ee, we got there in the end. While this really was really actually good, it's just so taxing. Maybe I'm not the target reader? Maybe I'm just not cut out for this smart thinking philosophy malarkey. 4.ohitcouldbebetterbutiamtoosimple
Chouba Nabil
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Matthew Syed demonstrated how we should deal with failure and mistakes, being open minded to learn from them and tweak the environment to avoid them. Our brain is by construction wired to see simplicity out of the complex world, if all is simple making mistakes originate from a negligence and the solution is being harch : blaming & escape goat & killing the messenger.
Matthew tells a lot of emouvant thriller story, most of time of people being killed and mistakes can be avoided by acknowl
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“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” 16 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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