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Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes - But Some Do Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes - But Some Do by Matthew Syed
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“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“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.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes - But Some Do
“Creativity is, in many respects, a response.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes - But Some Do
“Everything we know in aviation, every rule in the rule book, every procedure we have, we know because someone somewhere died . . . We have purchased at great cost, lessons literally bought with blood that we have to preserve as institutional knowledge and pass on to succeeding generations. We cannot have the moral failure of forgetting these lessons and have to relearn them.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“Michael Jordan, the basketball great, is a case in point. In a famous Nike commercial, he said: ‘I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots. I’ve lost almost three hundred games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed.’ For many the ad was perplexing. Why boast about your mistakes? But to Jordan it made perfect sense. ‘Mental toughness and heart are a lot stronger than some of the physical advantages you might have,’ he said. ‘I’ve always said that and I’ve always believed that.’ James”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success
“It is partly because we are so willing to blame others for their mistakes that we are so keen to conceal our own. We”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success
“Failure is rich in learning opportunities for a simple reason: in many of its guises, it represents a violation of expectation.6 It is showing us that the world is in some sense different from the way we imagined it to be.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“Most closed loops exist because people deny failure or try to spin it. With pseudosciences the problem is more structural. They have been designed, wittingly or otherwise, to make failure impossible. That is why, to their adherents, they are so mesmerizing. They are compatible with everything that happens. But that also means they cannot learn from anything.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“The only way to be sure is to go out and test your ideas and programmes, and to realise that you will often be wrong. But that is not a bad thing. It leads to progress.   This”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success
“In 2013 a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety8 put the number of premature deaths associated with preventable harm at more than 400,000 per year. (Categories of avoidable harm include misdiagnosis, dispensing the wrong drugs, injuring the patient during surgery, operating on the wrong part of the body, improper transfusions, falls, burns, pressure ulcers, and postoperative complications.) Testifying to a Senate hearing in the summer of 2014, Peter J. Pronovost, MD, professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and one of the most respected clinicians in the world, pointed out that this is the equivalent of two jumbo jets falling out of the sky every twenty-four hours. “What these numbers say is that every day, a 747, two of them are crashing. Every two months, 9/11 is occurring,” he said. “We would not tolerate that degree of preventable harm in any other forum.”9 These figures place preventable medical error in hospitals as the third biggest killer in the United States—behind only heart disease and cancer.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“The reason is not difficult to see: if we drop out when we hit problems, progress is scuppered, no matter how talented we are. If we interpret difficulties as indictments of who we are, rather than as pathways to progress, we will run a mile from failure. Grit, then, is strongly related to the Growth Mindset; it is about the way we conceptualise success and failure.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success
“These failures are inevitable because the world is complex and we will never fully understand its subtleties. The model, as social scientists often remind us, is not the system. Failure is thus a signpost. It reveals a feature of our world we hadn’t grasped fully and offers vital clues about how to update our models, strategies, and behaviors. From this perspective, the question often asked in the aftermath of an adverse event, namely, “Can we afford the time to investigate failure?,” seems the wrong way around. The real question is, “Can we afford not to?”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“When a culture is unfair and opaque, it creates multiple perverse incentives. When a culture is fair and transparent, on the other hand, it bolsters the adaptive process.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success
“trying to increase discipline and accountability in the absence of a just culture has precisely the opposite effect. It destroys morale, increases defensiveness and drives vital information deep underground. It”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success
“Psychologists often make a distinction between mistakes where we already know the right answer and mistakes where we don’t. A medication error, for example, is a mistake of the former kind: the nurse knew she should have administered Medicine A but inadvertently administered Medicine B, perhaps because of confusing labeling combined with pressure of time. But sometimes mistakes are consciously made as part of a process of discovery. Drug companies test lots of different combinations of chemicals to see which have efficacy and which don’t. Nobody knows in advance which will work and which won’t, but this is precisely why they test extensively, and fail often. It is integral to progress.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“Success is not just dependent on before-the-event reasoning, it is also about after-the-trigger adaptation.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success
“Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom, while discouragement often nips it in the bud.’3”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success
“Overcoming the blame tendency is a defining issue in the corporate world. Ben Dattner, a psychologist and organizational consultant, tells of an experience when he was working at the Republic National Bank of New York. He noticed a piece of paper that a co-worker had stapled to his cubicle wall. It read:

'The six phases of a project:
1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Panic
4. Search for the guilty
5. Punishment of the innocent
6. Rewards for the uninvolved'

Dattner writes: 'I have yet to come across a more accurate description of how most dramas play out in our working lives.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes - But Some Do
“Much of the literature on creativity focuses on how to trigger these moments of innovative synthesis; how to drive the problem phase toward its resolution. And it turns out that epiphanies often happen when we are in one of two types of environment. The first is when we are switching off: having a shower, going for a walk, sipping a cold beer, daydreaming. When we are too focused, when we are thinking too literally, we can’t spot the obscure associations that are so important to creativity. We have to take a step back for the “associative state” to emerge. As the poet Julia Cameron put it: “I learned to get out of the way and let that creative force work through me.”8 The other type of environment where creative moments often happen, as we have seen, is when we are being sparked by the dissent of others. When Kevin Dunbar, a psychologist at McGill University, went to look at how scientific breakthroughs actually happen, for example (he took cameras into four molecular biology labs and recorded pretty much everything that took place), he assumed that it would involve scientists beavering away in isolated contemplation. In fact, the breakthroughs happened at lab meetings, where groups of researchers would gather around a desk to talk through their work. Why here? Because they were forced to respond to challenges and critiques from their fellow researchers. They were jarred into seeing new associations.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“This approach is now the focus of a crusading group of economists who have transformed international development over the last decade. They do not come up with grand designs; rather, they look for small advantages. As Esther Duflo, the French-born economist who is at the forefront of this approach, put it: “If we don’t know if we are doing any good, we are not any better than the medieval doctors and their leeches. Sometimes the patient gets better; sometimes the patient dies. Is it the leeches or something else? We don’t know.”6”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“We will look beneath the surface and examine the underlying processes through which humans learn, innovate, and become more creative: whether in business, politics, or in our own lives. And we will find that in all these instances the explanation for success hinges, in powerful and often counterintuitive ways, on how we react to failure.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“Duflo, who is petite and dynamic, doesn’t regard her work as lacking in ambition; rather, she regards these incremental improvements as pioneering. She told me: It is very easy to sit back and come up with grand theories about how to change the world. But often our intuitions are wrong. The world is too complex to figure everything out from your armchair. The only way to be sure is to go out and test your ideas and programs, and to realize that you will often be wrong. But that is not a bad thing. It leads to progress.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“And that is why a powerful way to begin this investigation, and to glimpse the inextricable connection between failure and success, is to contrast two of the most important safety-critical industries in the world today: health care and aviation. These organizations have differences in psychology, culture, and institutional change, as we shall see. But the most profound difference is in their divergent approaches to failure.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“As Duflo puts it: “It is possible to make significant progress against the biggest problem in the world through the accumulation of a set of small steps, each well thought out, carefully tested, and judiciously implemented.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“The Greek period inspired the greatest flowering of knowledge in human history, producing the forefathers of the entire Western intellectual tradition, including Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras and Euclid. It changed the world in ways both subtle and profound.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success
“Marginal gains is not about making small changes and hoping they fly. Rather, it is about breaking down a big problem into small parts in order to rigorously establish what works and what doesn’t. Ultimately the approach emerges from a basic property of empirical evidence: to find out if something is working, you must isolate its effect. Controlled experimentation is inherently “marginal” in character.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“Medical errors follow a normal bell-shaped distribution.14 They occur most often not when clinicians get bored or lazy or malign, but when they are going about their business with the diligence and concern you would expect from the medical profession.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“Why, then, do so many mistakes happen? One of the problems is complexity.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
“Bacon identified in relation to the natural sciences: the mismatch between the complexity of the world and our capacity to understand it.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success
“But there is also something deeper and more subtle at work, something that has little to do with resources, and everything to do with culture. It turns out that many of the errors committed in hospitals (and in other areas of life) have particular trajectories, subtle but predictable patterns: what accident investigators call “signatures.” With open reporting and honest evaluation, these errors could be spotted and reforms put in place to stop them from happening again, as happens in aviation. But, all too often, they aren’t.”
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do

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