Beyond Blame: Learning From Failure and Success

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Beyond Blame: Learning From Failure and Success by Dave Zwieback

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Our increasingly complex world demands that we continuously learn in order to survive and thrive. Luckily, it offers us endless opportunities to learn from failures and successes, big and small, at work and at home. This short book is a mirror that helps us recognize when instead of learning we are too quick to blame, punish, judge, oversimplify.


This book is grounded in theories of complexity science, resilience engineering, human factors, cognitive science, and organizational psychology. It is also based on what the attendees of the Awesome Postmortems workshops (which Yulia Sheynkman and I created and have been conducting since early 2014) have taught us about the practice of learning from failure and success.


While the incident in the book is fictional, it should be all too familiar to anyone who works with (and in) complex systems. In an instinctive rush toward closure, we jump to conclusions, and construct simplistic stories of what happened and who’s to blame (or to praise). Comfortable as these stories might be, they short-circuit our learning. Only by going beyond blame—and by working together to overcome bias—can we construct more realistic and helpful narratives that allow us to learn more fully. Going beyond blame enables us to make our systems more resilient, and build more just and humane learning organizations.


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