Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success, by Matthew Syed


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Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success, by Matthew Syed

Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success, by Matthew Syed

Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success, by Matthew Syed

Ebook Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success, by Matthew Syed

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Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success, by Matthew Syed

Nobody wants to fail. But in highly complex organizations, success can happen only when we confront our mistakes, learn from our own version of a black box, and create a climate where it’s safe to fail.
 
We all have to endure failure from time to time, whether it’s underperforming at a job interview, flunking an exam, or losing a pickup basketball game. But for people working in safety-critical industries, getting it wrong can have deadly consequences. Consider the shocking fact that preventable medical error is the third-biggest killer in the United States, causing more than 400,000 deaths every year. More people die from mistakes made by doctors and hospitals than from traffic accidents. And most of those mistakes are never made public, because of malpractice settlements with nondisclosure clauses.

For a dramatically different approach to failure, look at aviation. Every passenger aircraft in the world is equipped with an almost indestructible black box. Whenever there’s any sort of mishap, major or minor, the box is opened, the data is analyzed, and experts figure out exactly what went wrong. Then the facts are published and procedures are changed, so that the same mistakes won’t happen again. By applying this method in recent decades, the industry has created an astonishingly good safety record.

Few of us put lives at risk in our daily work as surgeons and pilots do, but we all have a strong interest in avoiding predictable and preventable errors. So why don’t we all embrace the aviation approach to failure rather than the health-care approach? As Matthew Syed shows in this eye-opening book, the answer is rooted in human psychology and organizational culture.

Syed argues that the most important determinant of success in any field is an acknowledgment of failure and a willingness to engage with it. Yet most of us are stuck in a relationship with failure that impedes progress, halts innovation, and damages our careers and personal lives. We rarely acknowledge or learn from failure—even though we often claim the opposite. We think we have 20/20 hindsight, but our vision is usually fuzzy.

Syed draws on a wide range of sources—from anthropology and psychology to history and complexity theory—to explore the subtle but predictable patterns of human error and our defensive responses to error. He also shares fascinating stories of individuals and organizations that have successfully embraced a black box approach to improvement, such as David Beckham, the Mercedes F1 team, and Dropbox.

  • Sales Rank: #4800339 in Books
  • Published on: 2015-09-10
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 9.13″ h x 1.06″ w x 6.18″ l, 1.42 pounds
  • Binding: Hardcover

Review
Praise for Black Box Thinking

“Mathew Syed has issued a stirring call to redefine failure. Failure shouldn’t be shameful and stigmatizing, he explains. Instead, he shows that failure can be exciting and enlightening — an essential ingredient in any recipe for success. Full of well-crafted stories and keenly deployed scientific insights, Black Box Thinking will forever change the way you think about screwing up.”
—DANIEL PINK, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human

Praise for Bounce

“Insightful and entertaining”
—DAN ARIELY, author of Predictably Irrational

“The most important book I’ve read over the past six months.”
—PETER ORSZAG, economist, in The New York Times

“A fascinating subject and Syed is a dazzling writer.”
—OWEN SLOT, The Times London

“Everything Mathew Syed Writes is worth reading.”
—LYNN TRUSS, bestselling author of Eat, Shoots & Leaves

About the Author
Matthew Syed is a columnist and feature writer for The Times of London and frequently contributes to the BBC as a radio and television commentator. His previous book, Bounce, was an international bestseller. He has won numerous awards for his journalism and is an in-demand public speaker for organizations such as Goldman Sachs, BP, Rolls-Royce, and Oxford University. He lives in London.

Most helpful customer reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful.
GREAT BOOK. HIGHLY RECOMMEND READING!
By Gadget Junkie
A colleague of mine sent me a link to a BBC article regarding this book several weeks ago. As an patented inventor and product designer I was very intrigued by the title. This is the first book I have read by this author. As I read through its pages, I found Matthew Syed’s writing style to be captivating enough to keep my attention while describing events and facts which could otherwise be very dry. For that reason, I am compelled to read his other works, but merely based on the content, I have already recommended this book to dozens of people. The concept of learning from mistakes is as old as recorded history. However, if you think that is what this book is about, think again. There are many nuances to the subject matter disclosed which can be very thought provoking and enlightening. On several occasions I actually put the book down, feeling compelled to rethink dozens of situations in my own life where I have made mistakes, not learned from them and ended up repeating them, stuck in closed loop logic.
My key takeaway from reading this book is that Mr. Syed identifies a well-known flaw in humanity to which some critics at first blush might yawn and say “so what, nothing new here” Failure analysis has been around for centuries. Not exactly… this book covers a lot of ground. The Black Box failure analysis model has only been in use for a very limited amount of time in human history, yielding incredible results in aviation safety used for the benefit of all humanity. Yes, individuals throughout history have used versions of failure analysis to solve issues, either for themselves or for small scale issues. But this recent model transcends others in that it truly eliminates the need or benefit of lying, omitting information or tampering with evidence. By doing so, you only perpetuate a problem which could eventually end up costing you your life or the life of your loved ones. I spoke my friend who is a pilot and Lt. Col in the US Air Force about claims in this book and he confirmed the legitimacy and efficacy of the program, stating that US Military standards are slightly different than commercial aviation, but no doubt that you are immune to prosecution and encouraged to fully disclose information, which is solely used to improve safety for not only for the military, but for the greater good of all mankind. In my mind, that is what makes it unique.
If you were to tell a pilot in 1935 that in 2015, more pilgrims would die traveling on foot to Mecca (or being politically correct, Hajj 2015), then 3 billion passengers on commercial airplanes, travelling at 575 mph, taking off and landing in everything from thunderstorms and dense fog to snow, ice and gale force winds, sometimes even banking between skyscrapers on approach, they would have looked at you as though you were insane and told you to seek immediate psychological help. But those are the facts, made possible by human beings working together using this system and for the greater good of all.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
A paradigm shift mindset for how us and the rest of us should react from bad emotional experiences
By Sokratis Anastasiadis
Black Box Thinking is one of the best books that touches the heart topic of why our society these days is so ill-mannered on how we treat others and how afraid we are from other blaming us these days. We always constantly blame other people, filling in the gaps that do not exist, with our generalizations. We always attribute failure as a negative connotation, being the whole reason or the whole motivation why everybody wants to hide the truth from the public. What you can learn through black box thinking is that it is okay to criticize specific topics that you are knowledgeable and don’t fill in the gaps, it is okay to find the failures of others, but not as a dead end, but as their only way to gain any personal growth.

This book is more than just a treasure. It is a living creature that will challenge the current mindset of society. It will create a paradigm shift in how we perceive and treat individuals between today and tomorrow, a template that will prevent us doing the same mistakes over and over again no matter the situation.

I got inspired much by this book. It is great that this book became popular, so more people are aware of this problem.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful.
Great content – CD’s should have been better
By Amazon Customer
The content of this book is a real eye opener to us all who deny our mistakes in life. A very worthwhile book. Full marks to both Matthew Syed the author and Simon Slater the reader.
However, the CD version I received contained no title, author, speaker, date, chapters etc in the file data making it difficult to use other than the obvious disc and track numbers, so a very poor product considering the Penguin publishers. Would have expected better. Packaging was minimal, especially taking into account the international delivery distance involved, resulting in some crushing of the edge of the box, however the CD’s survived this ok.

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