The Excellence of Learning from Our Mistakes

In a world where change IS the norm, continuous learning and adaptability are vital if we are to remain relevant – both individually and as an organization. We work in a world-class university with close to 200 years of history – long recognized for its excellence. Making mistakes is not always part of our day-to-day vocabulary yet we recognize that the experience can be important part of learning and innovation.

The world is full of heroes who report countless failures before the ultimate breakthrough that led to fame and fortune.  If you have failed and gotten back up with new insights and a healthy dose of determination, you’ve joined the ranks of impressive people like Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and J.K. Rowlings. Click here to read about their inspiring failure stories. 

What’s important is not whether we make mistakes – but what we do with the valuable learning opportunities that they provide. We can avoid taking any risks. We can deny mistakes or disguise them. We can invest energy in blaming – ourselves and/or others. And we can ensure we avoid examining root causes where meaningful learning and change can take place. But none of the above leads to true excellence or innovation.

Teams that thrive dare to ask themselves tough questions, to reflect together with trust, respect and honesty, and to LEARN. Here are a few process questions that can enrich the learning journey for you and your team, as you debrief lessons learned:

  • Were our goals attained?
  • What went well?
  • What didn't go well?
  • What hadn’t we anticipated?
  • What was beyond our control?
  • What could we have handled better?
  • What questions should we have asked ourselves along the way?
  • What recommendations would we give to others planning to undertake a similar activity/project…?


Click here for a more elaborate “Lessons Learned” structured debrief. 



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