We’re told that we need to learn from our mistakes, and there’s no doubt we can, if we can get over feeling bad about making them in the first place, and if we can then work out a better way of handling whatever it is. It isn’t the most effective way to learn and develop though. If it were, we wouldn’t need teachers or role models!

However, the prevailing culture is one that emphasises mistakes and problems. We analyse them to death: why did it happen; what caused it; whose fault is it; and eventually, what can we do about it. If something has worked, we usually just tick it off the list and return to problems.

Excellent people take a different approach – they learn from what went well. Imagine if we spent as much time on those things we do well, asking similar questions: what worked; what helped it to work; what contributed to the success; what made the difference; and then, where else could we apply what we’ve realised.

When we do begin to analyse what went well, we discover good practice that can be used in lots of situations, in terms of the approach used to achieve this specific task or project. Most things work well when the people involved are motivated, and really clear about the outcomes they want to achieve. People usually need to feel it’s something worth achieving – there’s some benefit or value to it. It also tends to work better if those involved work together well and all value each other’s contributions. The list goes on, and each point identified can be used to enhance the likelihood of success in other aspects of work.

This form of analysis gives us immediately useful information for planning the next project or task, as well as making us feel even better about our achievements!

I’m not suggesting that we stop paying attention to mistakes and problems. It just might be useful to give an equal amount of attention to the good stuff – it has rich information to give us.

Di Kamp
Leadership Director of Meta

About Jo Clarkson

Jo Clarkson is the CEO of Meta and a frequent writer of the Meta-Org.com blog.
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