Do we truly learn from our mistakes?

I started to write this blog while on my annual holiday! I say holiday, I spent most of the time going red, then hiding from the sun, then going red again, but I did manage to cram in some work, this year I was producing our new website. I also like to lose myself in one of my greatest passions, reading!

Now I love a good thriller, I can recommend the new Rankin, DeMille, Ryan, Baldacci and several more thriller writers but I also like to take this time to learn something new, to learn from my mistakes to help me create a better business. This holiday I read several books, Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook which is great read if you want to get ahead with your social media marketing, but the one that truly started me thinking and gave me the inspiration for this blog was book called Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed

So do we learn from our mistakes? Even worse do we truly acknowledged them and then investigate them in order to ensure they never happen again? Now I bet like me you are saying, “of cause I do”! Really, honestly really?

What I read in Black Box Thinking about the differences between the Aviation industry and the Medical Profession and other professions simply dumbfounded me, and then started me thinking about my past and the business I have dealt with.

Here is what dumbfounded me, the Aviation industry, has truly learned from their mistakes! Each plane has two black boxes, one for the flight deck voice commands and the other recording mechanical movement etc. After each crash, near miss, simple flight error, everything is examined and recommendations made for improvement. Not just to the airline or that flight crew where the error occurred, but to the whole industry! Wow. Everything is open, no blame culture, it’s all about improving the product they sell, air flights. The safest way to travel!

However the medical industry, doesn’t appear to have the same transparency or simple means of communicating errors across the whole medical profession. According to Matthew Syed doctors down the annuals of history have learnt how to hide their mistakes, as a sector they don’t collate data after each operation or procedure, which could be gathered and shared world wide in order to improve patients well-being. I was shocked reading the opening chapters at the polar opposites approaches the two industries take when it comes to learning from their mistakes.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think doctor and nurses do an amazing job, and overtime do learn from their mistakes but if they adopted the Aviation approach just how many more lives could be saved?

But what about the rest of us! Are we not the same, look at my industry, recruitment, nothing as dramatic as the life and death industries above, but still, do agencies, consultants, clients and candidates truly learn from their mistakes. Do we measure our processes in time, money and success in order to improve each time. Most would like to say yes we do, but do we really?

How many consultants missed target, but have yet to change their processes. How many clients have never changed their recruitment process even though they keep losing quality candidates because their process is not fit purpose.

I could talk about numerous clients and agencies across all industries who refused to look at their mistakes, change for the good and have in the end paid the ultimate price. Look at the household names such as Kodak, Blockbusters, and Woolworths etc. who didn’t learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others, and make changes to safe guard their business future and where are they now?

They refused to change as why should they, after all they have always worked that way. Wow, how many plane crashes would there be if the Aviation industry thought in that way?

So do we truly learn from our mistakes and do we implement what we have learned. As I wrote this I contemplate my own career, the highs and the lows, and I discovered one thing! During the highs one thing stoodout, I changed my approach, service and attitude according the my failure ratio and learned to be better. However, during my failures I had become insular, almost self absorbed and didn’t alter my course of action and ultimately failed. After all, you cannot one without the other, as failure sparks creativity into life and looking how we learn was eloquently put by Steve Jobs “Creativity is just a connection of things”, so when you fail the answer normally lies in the connection of other successes that combined with cure your latest failure.

So what now, well for me its all about moving forward, learning to implement an environment where failure is a good thing, but learning from that failure is paramount to success and everyone is key to that in the business. As you read this are you thinking like the Aviation industry and taking steps to be this honest with yourself, and truly learn from your mistakes? Or will you carry on as you always have, because that’s what you have always done?


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