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Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the…
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Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance (edition 2016)

by Matthew Syed (Author)

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315865,461 (4)1
"Nobody wants to fail. But in highly complex organizations, success can happen only when we confront our mistakes, learn from our own version of a black box, and create a climate where it's safe to fail. We all have to endure failure from time to time, whether it's underperforming at a job interview, flunking an exam, or losing a basketball game. But for people working in safety-critical industries, getting it wrong can have deadly consequences. Consider the fact that preventable medical error is the third-biggest killer in the United States, causing more than 400,000 deaths every year. More people die from mistakes made by doctors and hospitals than from traffic accidents. And most of those mistakes are never made public, because of malpractice settlements with nondisclosure clauses. For a dramatically different approach to failure, look at aviation. Every passenger aircraft in the world is equipped with an almost indestructible black box. Whenever there's any sort of mishap, major or minor, the box is opened, the data is analyzed, and experts figure out exactly what went wrong. Then the facts are published and procedures are changed so that the same mistakes won't happen again. By applying this method in recent decades, the industry has created an astonishingly good safety record. Few of us put lives at risk in our daily work as surgeons and pilots do, but we all have a strong interest in avoiding predictable and preventable errors. So why don't we all embrace the aviation approach to failure rather than the health-care approach? As Matthew Syed shows in this eye-opening book, the answer is rooted in human psychology and organizational culture. Syed argues that the most important determinant of success in any field is an acknowledgment of failure and a willingness to engage with it. Yet most of us are stuck in a relationship with failure that impedes progress, halts innovation, and damages our careers and personal lives. We rarely acknowledge or learn from failure--even though we often claim the opposite. We think we have 20/20 hindsight, but our vision is usually fuzzy. Syed draws on a wide range of sources--from anthropology and psychology to history and complexity theory--to explore the subtle but predictable patterns of human error and our defensive responses to error. He also shares fascinating stories of individuals and organizations that have successfully embraced a black box approach to improvement, such as David Beckham, the Mercedes F1 team, and Dropbox"--… (more)
Member:AliG3
Title:Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance
Authors:Matthew Syed (Author)
Info:John Murray (2016), Edition: 01, 352 pages
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Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do by Matthew Syed

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English (7)  Dutch (1)  All languages (8)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Good read. Certainly has a military bent but great application of the idea. Accurate recording of your errors is so core to making good mistakes. Recommended. ( )
  rickycatto | Sep 9, 2020 |
What a great book. How to improve systems and reduce error rates. This is a synthesis of many of my favourite books. As an entrepreneur and serial self-improver I love the insights this book gives ( )
  muwaffaq | Mar 20, 2019 |
Easy to read and interesting although most of the "insights" are nothing new. Like most of these business self-help books there's lots of "shouding" but no actual guidance on how to do these things. I work in health - I know. People in the SAME organisation don't know what other improvements are being made, never mind what other organisations are doing. ( )
  infjsarah | Jul 15, 2017 |
This was an engaging and interest-provoking book (I ended up with a list of referenced books and papers I now want to read) about failure and the vital importance of learning from failure. It had anecdotes and statistics from aviation, health care, criminal justice, animation, sports, education, and more. I feel like it could have been shorter, and the last section tried to be practical (as opposed to theoretical) and I think it failed at that.

Overall, a solid non-fiction read that held my interest almost to the end; and a good overview of some important topics like cognitive dissonance, marginal gains, creativity, and growth mindset.

Favorite quotes:

"The idea that the successful safety record in aviation has emerged from the rubble of real-world accidents is vivid, paradoxical, and profound."

"...this is invariably how progress happens. It is an interplay between the practical and the theoretical, between top-down and bottom-up, between creativity and discipline, between the small picture and the big picture...failure is a blessing, not a curse."

"If we are operating in an environment without meaningful feedback, we can't improve."
  JillianJ | Jun 14, 2017 |
This is a really neat way to get people to research what went wrong so that they can put it right. It teaches you to be thorough and to learn from your mistakes in a really positive way. ( )
  DavidFerrers | Mar 10, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Matthew Syedprimary authorall editionscalculated
Frank, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Slater, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wikipedia in English (1)

"Nobody wants to fail. But in highly complex organizations, success can happen only when we confront our mistakes, learn from our own version of a black box, and create a climate where it's safe to fail. We all have to endure failure from time to time, whether it's underperforming at a job interview, flunking an exam, or losing a basketball game. But for people working in safety-critical industries, getting it wrong can have deadly consequences. Consider the fact that preventable medical error is the third-biggest killer in the United States, causing more than 400,000 deaths every year. More people die from mistakes made by doctors and hospitals than from traffic accidents. And most of those mistakes are never made public, because of malpractice settlements with nondisclosure clauses. For a dramatically different approach to failure, look at aviation. Every passenger aircraft in the world is equipped with an almost indestructible black box. Whenever there's any sort of mishap, major or minor, the box is opened, the data is analyzed, and experts figure out exactly what went wrong. Then the facts are published and procedures are changed so that the same mistakes won't happen again. By applying this method in recent decades, the industry has created an astonishingly good safety record. Few of us put lives at risk in our daily work as surgeons and pilots do, but we all have a strong interest in avoiding predictable and preventable errors. So why don't we all embrace the aviation approach to failure rather than the health-care approach? As Matthew Syed shows in this eye-opening book, the answer is rooted in human psychology and organizational culture. Syed argues that the most important determinant of success in any field is an acknowledgment of failure and a willingness to engage with it. Yet most of us are stuck in a relationship with failure that impedes progress, halts innovation, and damages our careers and personal lives. We rarely acknowledge or learn from failure--even though we often claim the opposite. We think we have 20/20 hindsight, but our vision is usually fuzzy. Syed draws on a wide range of sources--from anthropology and psychology to history and complexity theory--to explore the subtle but predictable patterns of human error and our defensive responses to error. He also shares fascinating stories of individuals and organizations that have successfully embraced a black box approach to improvement, such as David Beckham, the Mercedes F1 team, and Dropbox"--

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