Friday, March 23, 2012

We Don't Learn More From Our Failures Than Our Successes!

Ok, I'm frustrated with the cliche, "You learn more from your failures than your successes." Why? Well, for starters, it's not entirely true! You learn most effectively when you can COMPARE AND CONTRAST SUCCESS AND FAILURE! In so doing, you develop a much more accurate understanding of cause-effect relationships. Consider the research of Schmuel Ellis and Inbar Davidi, which I described in my last book. These researchers examined after-event reviews conducted by Israeli military forces. They compared soldiers who conducted post-event reflection exercises after successful and unsuccessful navigation exercises with soldiers who only reviewed failures. The scholars found that “contemplation of successful events stimulated the learners to generate more hypotheses about their performance.” The soldiers who systematically analyzed both successes and failures developed richer mental models of cause and effect. Perhaps most importantly, these soldiers performed better on subsequent missions!

In addition to the importance of comparison and contrast, one other key psychological phenomenon makes the cliche problematic.  When we examine the causes of failure, we experience the fundamental attribution error.  When others fail, we look inside of them, and we blame their lack of knowledge, experience, and the like.  However, when we fail, we tend to look outside of ourselves. We blame "unexpected external forces" or some other cause not of our own doing.  The fundamental attribution error prevents us from learning effectively from our failures.

So, let's stop with the cliche!  We learn by comparing our successes and failures!

1 comment:

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