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/ 09.08.17

Black Box Thinking

By Matthew Syed

How we think about failure, innovation and performance improvement.

In the UK at least, failure is still seen as a bit of a dirty word within business. Thankfully, Matthew Syed’s book looks at failure as part of a longer process towards success, focusing on analysing data and learning from each failure to make smaller gains (like the aviation industry does from aeroplane black boxes).

I found it really interesting how the book looks at different industries such as aviation, healthcare and science, identifying how players in each of these industries achieve success through a detailed look at failure. I was fascinated by the psychology behind this, and how our minds can drive behaviours that reinforce what we believe to be true but, in essence, isn’t really an objective view of the situation.

It’s about breaking down your goals into lots of smaller parts, then improving on each of those - test, fail, repeat. Great case studies come from the likes of team Sky, the Mercedes F1 team and Dyson. James Dyson waxes lyrical on the need for the right growth mindset and to know that it’s ok to fail - he made over 5,000 prototypes before it finally clicked for him!

It’s definitely been one of my better holiday reads and has made me think about failure differently, encouraged me that my opinion of giving things a go and trying it out is the right route, and to keep testing and tweaking as we go.

What am I going to take from reading this?

  • Honestly, taking a closer look at new business pitches that might not go your way, analyse them bits and then keep improving
  • To try out comms approaches and methods and not waiting until everything is 100% perfect before we get it out there and test it with people. We can then refine based on this valuable feedback.
  • Test and learn, test and learn and keep going until it’s right.
  • I’ll view failure a little differently, more with a learning and testing mentality going forward and know that every time that happens we have all grown a little bit from it.
  • I’ll approach our creative brainstorming sessions a little differently too – where as we might throw any idea into the mix, having a little more discipline and reality to an idea as you go might make the ideas presented work a little harder based on the great example in the book that some of the best creative moments happen when we are being sparked by the dissent of others. You’re forced to think of your idea on a different scale.

Get the book here


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