We hear a lot about learning from failure but what about learning from success?
How clear are leaders about the reasons for success and are peoples judgments about what has generated success accurate and realistic?
Are we doomed only to pay attention and collect the learning’s and insights when we fail? Well post GFC hindsight is now suggesting that many firms enjoyed their successes rather than learned from them in the boom times.
If you adopt the view that leadership and adaptive learning are strongly related, then a misunderstood success is a leadership as well as a learning failure. By not reviewing systematically we are breeding future failure .
Much research seems to indicate that as leaders we tend to overestimate our impact and give more credit too our talents than warranted and give less credence to things outside our control like luck or other external factors. The implication here is that they fuel our success and status hard-wiring meaning of course we tend to reinforce our existing behaviours making it less likely for us to feel the need to change anything. Recent research from the University of Washington confirms this view. When we feel confident we tend to place more weight on own opinions as compared with others
Check out this TED Talk which has an interesting take on learning from failure
We are also hardwired to look at the “squeaky wheel” and deconstruct it or at least worry about it, leaving little time or perceived benefit for reviewing the causes of good performance.
So being too busy and not reviewing successes is akin to leaving money on the table.
We need more systematic ways to review our activities. So action learning approaches, after action reviews and 6 Sigma can be helpful disciplines in testing the assumptions about what is needed to achieve and reproduce great performance.
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