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Better By Mistake

I finished reading Better By Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong.

The book had a few interesting passages, like this one:

“Blaming individuals is emotionally more satisfying than targeting institutions. People are viewed as free agents capable of choosing between safe and unsafe modes of behavior. If something goes wrong, it seems obvious that an individual (or group of individuals) must have been responsible. But there are many problems with this approach, because if one person is blamed for a mistake, then all too often no further action will be taken–that is, there will be no detailed analysis of mishaps or near misses and therefore no way of uncovering systemic failures. … The systems approach, on the other hand, views humans as fallible, and errors as expected in even the best circumstances. When an adverse event occurs, the important issue is not who blundered, but how and why the defenses failed.”

Some of the myths about mistakes that Tugend addresses:

MYTH: Perfectionists make better workers.
FACT: Many perfectionists fear challenging tasks, take fewer risks, and are less creative than nonperfectionsists. One research study found that perfectionists performed more poorly than their counterparts in a writing task.

MYTH: It’s good for your childrens self-esteem to praise them for being smart.
FACT: Research has shown that praising children for being smart-rather than for making a good effort-leads them to fear taking on more difficult tasks because they might look “dumb.”

MYTH: Women handle mistakes better than men do.
FACT: Women and men do tend to respond to mistakes in different ways, but each sex can learn something from the other’s approach. Men tend to place the blame on others and could benefit from a greater willingness to shoulder responsibility for their errors. Women, on the other hand, tend to beat themselves up, and need to learn to depersonalize mistake-making.

MYTH: It’s always a good idea to apologize to an injured party as soon as possible after making a mistake.
FACT: While it’s not a great idea to wait too long to apologize, research has found that if you say “I’m sorry” before the person you hurt has time to be heard and understood, the apology can feel more like pressure to move on than a sincere statement.

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