How to Learn from Failure

by Simon. Average Reading Time: less than a minute.

Too often we assume that a failed experiment is a wasted effort. But not all anomalies are useless.

  • Check your assumptions
    Ask yourself why this result feels like a failure. What theory does this contradict? Maybe the hypothesis failed, not the experiment.
  • Seek out the ignorant
    Talk to people who are unfamiliar with your experiment. Explaining your work in simple terms may help you see it in a new light.
  • Beware of failure blindness
    It’s normal to filter out information that contradicts our preconceptions. The only way to avoid that bias is to be aware of it.
  • Encourage diversity
    If everyone working on a problem speaks the same language, then everyone has the same set of assumptions.

Excerpt from February’s UK edition of Wired.

This article has been tagged

, , , ,

Other articles I recommend

Cool Hand Luke

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.

Carmina Burana – Drink, Sex and Medieval Monks

It is not often that the little old ladies of the choral society scream “since Fate strikes down the strong man, everyone weep with me!”, or when they are in a more cheerful mood, “My virginity makes me frisky, my simplicity holds me back. Oh, Oh, Oh, I am completely coming to life”.

My Work Philosophy

Okay, so many of the points below aren’t purely my philosophy, but ideas and principles I have picked up along the way throughout my [development] career. Some relate to the UNIX philosophy, or even the Zen of Python, but wherever they’re from, they can be applied to many other domains.

  • May I add Andy Grove’s (of Intel fame) bonmot book title “Only the Paranoid Survive”.