Monday, January 18, 2010

Not perfect

In the past few weeks, I've managed to lose my keys, my iPhone, and my way, predictable lapses known to occur when a person doesn't sleep or shower in the same place enough. So error, and how to mitigate predictable errror, had been on my mind.

To that end, I now possess 3 identical, well-parsed travel kits, one for home, one for my home away from home, and one for my gym bag. Standardize. Simplify. Before clicking "send," I ask for a second set of eyes on high-stakes transactions (like flight bookings).  Independent double checks. Redundancies.

I know what reduces the chances that simple human error will occur or cause major set-backs in many processes. Last week, I was busy putting this knowledge to work for myself. 

So it seemed like an odd time for counter-intuitive messages--things that show the benefit of imperfection--to crop up. But on Friday morning, I found myself captivated by a story about a mistake. (You can listen to this recollection, made more special because events weren't carried out as planned, in Story Corps' "When the tooth fairy overbooks, helpers step in," a daughter's precious memory of a father's slip.) And today I found Kent Bottles' interesting piece about why failure is important, which called upon a classic article "Teaching Smart People to Learn." (There's a link to the pdf in Kent's post.)

Trying to find the silver lining in the mistake cloud reminds me of a two quotes I used to keep on the bulletin board above my desk: Experience is what you do get when you didn't get what you wanted and Experience helps you recognize when you've made the same mistake twice.

Bon voyage! Safe travels!

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