Friday, December 17, 2004

Great book! Make mistakes and win!

Now and again I like to share books that have really impressed me. One such book is ‘Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins’, by Richard Farson and Ralph Keynes.

For principals and teachers, living in ‘risk adverse culture of caution’, accountability and compliance, it would make a great holiday read.

The author’s main point is that it is neither possible nor desirable to differentiate between success and failure. Life they write is never that black and white. What might look like success today might be seen as a failure tomorrow and vice versa. The authors quote Chekov, ‘One must be God to be able to distinguish success from failure’.

Success, failure: who’s to say? We need to be more relaxed and focus on learning.

Creative people have always understood this paradox. The important thing, the authors continue, is be fully engaged, to do things with an intensity, and to learn from whatever happens. It is all about ‘flow’ and achieving ‘peak performance.’ People, they write, want to be involved in worthwhile memorable experiences; to live passionately and to learn from whatever happens. Failure at least means you had a go; ‘imperfection is the essence of evolution’.

The book believes that schools have become obsessed with success. That there is an obsession about achieving measurable results and this emphasis will have unintended consequences – initial success may well lead to narrowing perception and limiting innovative thinking. Accountability, no matter how well meaning, is an inhibiting practice. Many genuine innovators, they say, were ‘hobbled more than helped by what they had learnt at school.’

The authors have found no correlation between success in high school and being innovative in life. Most schools, they add, do a remarkably poor job of recognizing and rewarding future achievers. Schools instead penalize risk takers and honor those that play it safe. Most importantly they do not teach students ‘how to deal with failure.’

The advice they give educators is to be sparing with compliments and instead show genuine interests in what students are engaged in and to provide specific feedback. Students need to be helped to gain deep understanding rather than being continually judged; obsessive evaluation is the ‘mother of all caution.’

The fear of looking foolish is the biggest inhibiter of all, stopping too many of us from living our dreams. Courage is facing up to this fear of embarrassment and failure. Teaching students to face up to this fear is vital.

Nothing, they say, succeeds like failure. New ideas emerge. The authors advice is to analyze mistakes by all means but don’t get bogged down. Instead ask what happened and where to next! Learn to ‘fail intelligently.’ What is required is ‘enlightened trial and error’.

There is a need, the author’s state, to infuse all organizations (including schools) with an ‘innovative spirit’, so that ‘innovators can flourish. What is required are ‘risk friendly environments’ that value creative individuals.

Such creative individuals, they note, will be difficult, often ‘refusing to fly in formation’. A tolerance for non conformity is critical to the process. It requires in those that 'lead' organizations an openness towards learning from whatever happens without rushing in to prematurely judge whether a success or failure!’

If leaders need to create such learning oriented environments the best advice for innovators trapped in judgmental situations is, as it has always been: ‘It is better to seek forgiveness that to ask for permission.’

A book well worth a read!

Be happy if any one out there would share an inspiration book with me.

Check my book list.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems we all end up playing the 'school game' ( students and teachers) becuse it is easy to just go along and not stick your neck out. But not much fun!