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March 11th, 2014

How Lessons are Learned

By Ron Nakamoto

The article below by Frank Sonnenberg is reminiscent of Lee Brower’s recent emphasis on lessons learned.  Sonnenberg writes:

“Unfortunately, people run into a wall, dust themselves off, and run into that wall again. This happens because they’ve blocked the bad experience from their memory. The fact is, every challenge in life offers an important lesson. So, do yourself a favor and recount what you’ve learned. You’ll save yourself a lot of aggravation and heartache. Plus, you’ll ensure that past mistakes don’t become a habit. As the saying goes, “There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. Just don’t respond with encores.”

This advice sounds good but to me is missing a specific process or course of action to facilitate learning.  Fortunately, it also

reminded me of a course I took recently called “Learning from Mistakes” by Clearer Thinking clearerthinking.org.  This course advocates a six question process to analyze mistakes:

1.What went wrong?

2. Have you made a mistake like this before?

3. What was the immediate cause of the problem?

4. What was the root cause of the problem?

5. What can you do to correct the problem in the short term?

6. What can you do to prevent problems like these in the long term?

What was most interesting to me about this process was the distinction between immediate causes and root causes.  By also asking if you’ve made a mistake like this before, a pattern or habit may be revealed.  As the course states:

“Not all problems have deep-seated root causes. Asking yourself this question is an important step in determining whether preventing similar mistakes in the future will require you to change your habits.”

The effectiveness of this process depends upon one’s ability to be honest about one’s flaws.  As Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach puts it, “All progress begins by telling the truth.”

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