Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes – But Some Do by Matthew Syed

Black Box

The bestselling author of “Bounce” once again mesmerises with his new and insightful work. Drawing upon real life experiences, the author holds forth on the harmful consequences of disregarding and scuppering failure instead of learning and leveraging from them. Citing the examples of Airline Industries, where each failure/disaster is meticulously analysed with a fine-toothed comb, and the results disseminated to concerned airline personnel across the globe (with a view to obviating calamitous recurrences), Matthew Syed makes a case for celebrating (if not extolling) failures, with a power objective of gaining insights from mishaps.

The healthcare sector, where some of the most acclaimed doctors suffer from the popularly known “God Complex”, is ripe for redefining failure and being transparent about it. Once such a courageous step is taken, the results can be transforming. This was evidenced in no small detail by the Virginia Mason Healthcare Centre where mistakes were openly acknowledged and mitigating responses instituted.

The book scores the most in illustrating some genuinely inspiring stories such as the endeavours of James Dyson (of the “Dyson” appliances fame), who had to go through more than 5,000 iterations before coming up with a revolutionary vacuum cleaner and the Mercedes Formula 1 team whose technical analysts pore over thousands and thousands of technical data seeking to make “marginal gains” in their performance. While James Dyson has gone on to accumulate a net wealth in excess of US$3 million, team Mercedes have, at the time of writing bagged their second consecutive drivers’ as well as Constructors’ Championship Titles.

The Chapters dealing with Cognitive Dissonance and Narrative Fallacy make for some riveting reading. There is a great opportunity to be gained from absorbing, assimilating and emulating some of the techniques and tenets postulated in this book.

“Black Box Thinking” – Thought provoking!

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