‘If we interpret difficulties as indictments of who we are, rather as pathways to progress, we will run a mile from failure’ p220 of Black Box Thinking
As part of our Ashurst Advance Book Club, we recently read ‘Black Box Thinking’ – a fascinating read looking at how attitudes towards failure can hugely impact the progression of industries and individual organisations. The book makes frequent comparisons between the aviation industry and the healthcare industry, highlighting differences in attitudes towards error. As the title of the book suggests, the aviation industry has successfully created a culture where errors are viewed as learning opportunities, distinct from blame, and acted upon with immediate effect. They have created a physical mechanism to capture these errors automatically, providing them with invaluable data to listen, learn, adapt and progress. In contrast, the healthcare industry appears to have cultivated a culture whereby errors tend to reflect negatively on the individual, instilling fear amongst employees and a tendency to blame rather than looking for learning opportunities. Errors in both industries can result in fatalities, which suggests that the difference in attitude isn’t born from the severity of the consequences of the error. Black Box Thinking doesn’t focus on how these cultures have evolved to have such distinct attitudes towards errors, but I imagine it to be a broad combination of reasons such as leadership, resource and capacity, sophistication of data and systems, investment of time, mindset, training etc.