Sunday, 30 December 2012

Do you Learn from Your Mistakes?

I have recently read a Harvard Business School paper,  called "Learning From My Success and From Others' Failure: Evidence from Minimally-Invasive Cardiac Surgery." An important feature of the paper is that self-attribution bias results in individuals failing to improve as much as we may think from their own mistakes. We learn better from the mistakes of others rather than our own.

Daniel Kahneman would not be surprised by this, he has long held that we put our success down to our abilities and skill, while we maintain that our failures result from external factors, the actions of others or just plain bad luck.

How can you beat this well established bias and learn more? One way may be to document your mistakes as they occur. The act of writing them down takes out some of the emotion and allows you to think. Revisit the mistakes in a few weeks and you may spot a pattern or develop an awareness of why your mistakes happen.

Most people out there won't do this, they will continue to make mistakes and worse still not learn a lot from them. If you can learn just a few lessons from all the mistakes that enviably occur, then you will be at a considerable advantage in your professional development. It would be a mistake not to.

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