We have all heard how important it is to learn from failures, and that making mistakes is actually important. However saying that we encourage people to do and learn from mistakes is of course not the same as creating a safe environment for people to do so.

In a study conducted by professor Amy Edmonson, the question was how it would be possible to reduce failure rates in hospital, and thus save lives. She researched two groups, one with clear engaging goals, effective coaching for staff and which was a supportive organization to all its staff. The other hospital had no such systems in place. Professor Edmonson was interested to find out which group would commit less medical errors.

4754438482_91349d799a_zAt first, Professor Edmonson noticed something very bizarre. The group that had a clear supportive system in place actually made more errors than those that didn’t implement such procedures. This seemed very bizarre and warranted some more analyses.

After investigating the groups in more depth, she unveiled the myth to this bizarre outcome. In fact, the group with proper support procedures didn’t actually make more mistakes, but simply reported more faults than the group without any support mechanism.

Her conclusion was that the key to more safety was to create an environment that gives the staff the psychological safety to talk about mistakes and failures. This is because it is vital for staff to be able to speak openly about setbacks in order to promote the conditions for proper learning. This is also the best way to reduce significant errors in the long run.

These findings can be applied to any situation. We promote the joy of learning by taking away any negative stigmas related to mistakes and failures. This is because only by eliminating fears of failure and rejection, do we encourage people to stop avoiding challenges, and rather learn to cope with the process of learning.

Image Resources:
Tomasz Stasiuk
Rudolf Vlček


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