Black Box Thinking

Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do
by Matthew Syed | 336 pages

Failure. Some of us lean into it and learn as much as we can from it, and some of us prefer to avoid thinking about it and/or pretend it never happened. As you may guess, one approach leads to dramatically better performance over the long run. (Hint: Seeing failure as feedback + learning opportunities is a very wise idea.) Big Ideas we explore include a quick look at the aviation vs. health care industries, the importance of quantity of work if you want quality, marginal gains, cognitive dissonance and pre-mortems.


“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 most important step on the road to a high-performance revolution: increasing the speed of development in human activity and transforming those areas that have been left behind. Only by redefining failure will we unleash progress, creativity, and resilience.”

~ Matthew Syed from Black Box Thinking

Failure.

Some of us lean into it and learn as much as we can from it, and some of us prefer to avoid thinking about it and/or pretend it never happened.

As you may guess, one approach leads to dramatically better performance over the long run. (Hint: Seeing failure as feedback + learning opportunities is a very wise idea.)

This book is all about, as the sub-title suggests, “Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes—But Some Do.”

It’s a fascinating read. Matthew is a brilliant, award-winning writer who brings the wisdom to life via great story telling. (To put it in perspective, I read this and his other book Bounce in < 72 hours—Black Box on a Friday + a little bit of Saturday and Bounce on Sunday.)

The book is geared more toward high-level concepts and organizational applications than individual self-help per se, but it’s packed with Big Ideas (get a copy here) and I’m excited to focus on highlighting a handful of my favorites we can apply today.

So, let’s jump straight in!

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About the author

Authors

Matthew Syed

Journalist, author, broadcaster, and speaker.