Learning from failure

Being able to learn from failure is an important part of Genuine Evaluation. This issue has been discussed recently in papers and blogs.

Nancy Dixon in a recent post on her blog Conversation Matters suggested some ways of learning from failure.

What is needed is a clear model of what it takes to learn from failure and that is what Cannon and Edmondson have provided in their article, “Failing to Learn and Learning to Fail.” (Download Edmondson – Failing to Learn and Learning to fail) They identify three organizational activities that need to be in place if an organization is going to take advantage of this valuable knowledge.
• A systematic way of identifying failures
• A process in place for analyzing failures, and
• A culture that promotes deliberate experimentation

In a recent post on the AEA365 blog, Susan Kistler presented some of the key messages from Cannon and Edmondson’s 2004 paper Failing to Learn and Learning to Fail (Intelligently): How great organizations put failure to work to improve and innovate, and commented:

For me, Cannon and Edmondson reaffirmed the value of formal and informal evaluation and its role in innovation. They made it clear that data-lovers are uniquely positioned to fail intelligently.

Interesting how rarely the issues involved in learning from failure are addressed in monitoring and evaluation plans and systems. Or are there some good examples of monitoring systems or evaluation plans that have built in processes to do this?

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