On making mistakes
At a very young age we are instructed “Don’t make the same mistake twice.” Exclamations of “tch” if our child misspells a word or gets her numbers wrong. As a new businesswoman, in a new job role, in a new relationship or at school, we go to great lengths to be flawless, to get that perfect score. After all, we want us and ours to be the best. We especially do not want to blunder in situations that count. We would prefer that a surgeon performing a life-saving surgery be faultless. Rationally and logically speaking, we are all fallible and will always be inclined to err.
The problems of learning
A review conducted at the Department of Psychology, Columbia University gives us beautiful insights into the problems of learning and performance. It emphasizes the importance of make mistakes, being given corrective feedback constructively and teaching children early-on to develop a higher tolerance to receive such feedback.
The win-win situation
In a business as a new-comer, if the goal is optimal performance in high-stakes situations, then it is important to take decisions confidently in low stakes situations. If your decision is correct, mazel tov! If the decision is incorrect, corrective feedback that is given – including an analysis of the reasoning leading up to the mistake, optimizes learning – Growth !
Losing is winning
Keeping in mind that one must encourage and allow mistakes – it is equally important that the teacher / mentor use this opportunity to exercise exploratory learning strategies rather than rate you – criticize or punish. It is also important to distinguish between making an error and being a mistake. Self-rating of any form is unhealthy. We all perform poorly in some tasks more than others and this does not make us “failures.”
Ignoring errors is an opportunity lost!
In the classroom situation, a child who gives the correct answer is praised, even awarded a ‘place’ – photographs are taken and posted. Incorrect answers and deviant correct answers are never discussed, and in fact – usually ignored. “The winner takes it all” so to speak. The main purpose that such reinforcement serves in a school setting where errors are not constructively addressed, is to establish authority of say, the teacher, as someone who can confer awards. It is one thing to assert power, and another to be invested in teaching or learning. In businesses, they say that discussing potential errors, or errors that one has made as the mentor, also helps the learning process.
When and how should feedback be given ?
It is not necessary that feedback be immediate for learning to occur. Lab experiments show that even when feedback is given as much as one week later (delayed feedback), it helps get the attention of the learner. In some situations however (such as the classroom) immediate feedback benefits students better. Rather than a “right” or “wrong” – Deep analysis leads to discovery and better retention.
The roots of shame, guilt, depression lie in self-rating
Apart from the obvious facilitation of learning, the emotional consequences of grasping from very early on that – to err is human, and necessary – can eventually mean more resilient humans