Does your organisation take the airline industry's institutionalised approach to learning from failure and use that as a springboard to improvement?

This week’s riff: Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting with executives from a fast-growing snacking business. What struck me most from our discussions was the company’s willingness to accept failure as a learning opportunity and its committed to ongoing experimentation and prudent risk-taking as their fastest route to growth.

The company is developing new snacks continuously and. If a new line receives a negative reception, it is quickly changed or dropped. The whole operating system is designed to deal with new and different lines; it expects failure and is built to exploit rather than resist it.

Our willingness and ability to learn from failure is the subject of a recent book by Matthew Syed, called Black Box Thinking. In the book, Syed compares and contrasts the healthcare industry. It does little to accept failure and has, therefore, a poor track record in understanding patterns of errors. Or systematically addressing them. With the airline industry, where failures, both large and small, are shared publicly and are seen as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Whether we’re talking about individuals, teams or organisations, the clear conclusion from Black Box Thinkingis that, in Syed’s words, “We progress fastest when we face up to failure – and learn from it.

So, what about you and your organization. Are you more like the healthcare industry or do you, like the snacking business I visited, take the airline industry’s institutionalised approach to learning from failure? Using that learning as a springboard to improvement and growth?


Off The Record: Get It Right Next Time by Gerry Rafferty

You’ve got to grow, you’ve got to learn by your mistakes

We’ve got to die a little every day, just to try and stay awake

When you believe there’s no mountain you can climb

And if you get it wrong you’ll get it right next time


© Stuart Cross 2017. All rights reserved.