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Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure

Book Description

If you have ever flown in an airplane, used electricity from a nuclear power plant, or taken an antibiotic, you have benefited from a brilliant mistake.

Each of these life-changing innovations was the result of many missteps and an occasional brilliant insight that turned a mistake into a surprising portal of discovery. In Brilliant Mistakes, Paul Schoemaker, founder and chairman of Decision Strategies International, shares critical insights on the surprising benefits of making well-chosen mistakes.

Brilliant Mistakes explores why minimizing mistakes may be the greatest mistake of all, situations when mistakes are most beneficial and when they should be avoided, the counter-intuitive idea that we should deliberately permit errors at times, and how to make the most of brilliant mistakes to improve business results.

Brilliant Mistakes is based on solid academic research and insights from Schoemaker’s work with more than 100 organizations, as well as his provocative Harvard Business Review article with Robert Gunther, “The Wisdom of Deliberate Mistakes.” Schoemaker provides a practical roadmap for using mistakes to accelerate learning for your organization and yourself.

Table of Contents

  1. Dedication in Memoriam
  2. Contents
  3. Preface
  4. Introduction: When Wrong Is Right
    1. “With Every Mistake We Must Surely Be Learning”
      1. What’s Your View?
    2. The Path to Brilliance
  5. Part One: Rethinking Mistakes
  6. Chapter 1: Context Matters: Defining Mistakes
    1. Defining Mistakes
      1. Theory
      2. Reality
        1. Temporality: Vantage Points in Time
        2. Chance: As Opposed to Skill
        3. Treatment Effects: Confounding Influences Ex Post Facto
        4. Missing Data: The Road Not Taken
    2. Who Makes the Call?
  7. Chapter 2: Not All Errors Are Equal: Brilliant Mistakes
    1. Mistakes with Potential
      1. Inventors, or Professional Mistake Makers?
    2. Questioning Assumptions
    3. Types of Errors, and Their Relative Benefits
  8. Chapter 3: Why and How We Err: Causes and Remedies
    1. Developing a Forensic Mind-set
    2. Innocent Mistakes
    3. Drowning in a Pool of Subjectivity
      1. Emotional Factors
      2. Cognitive Gaps
    4. The 4 Key Phases in Decision Making
      1. Phase 1: Decision Framing
      2. Phase 2: Intelligence Gathering
      3. Phase 3: Coming to Conclusions
      4. Phase 4: Learning from Experience
    5. Better Decision Making
  9. Part Two: Designing for Mistakes
  10. Chapter 4: Faster Learning: A Practical Road Map
    1. Entrepreneurs: Expert Mistake Makers
    2. To Err Can Be Divine
    3. Disconfirming Evidence
    4. Disciplined, Deliberate Mistake-Making
    5. Performance versus Learning
  11. Chapter 5: Deliberate Mistakes: Creating Portals of Discovery
    1. Making Mistakes on Purpose
    2. Challenging the Existing Model
    3. The Paradox of Deliberate Mistakes
    4. Practical Applications
    5. Conditions That Favor Deliberate Mistakes
      1. There is much to gain relative to the cost of the mistake.
      2. Decisions are made repeatedly.
      3. The environment is in flux.
      4. The problem is complex and solutions numerous.
      5. Your experience with a problem is limited.
    6. Exploring Your Willingness to Make Mistakes
    7. Ready for Deliberate Mistakes?
    8. An Open Mind Is a Fertile Mind
    9. Column Legend
  12. Chapter 6: Portfolio of Mistakes: Hedging Conventional Wisdom
    1. The Benefits of a Portfolio
      1. Portfolio Thinking Goes Against the Grain
      2. Placing Many Small Bets: The Portfolio Approach
      3. Managing Diversity: The Key to Portfolio Thinking
  13. Part Three: Putting It All Together
  14. Chapter 7: The Prepared Mind: Detecting Anomalies
    1. A Nobel from the Trash
    2. Michelangelo of the Microbes
    3. From Epiphany to Utility
    4. Flashes of Brilliance
    5. Peripheral Vision
  15. Epilogue: Musing About Mistakes
    1. How Successful People View Mistakes
    2. Courting Error and Mistake
    3. In Conclusion
  16. Appendix A: Einstein’s 23 Mistakes
  17. Appendix B: Expected Utility Analysis
  18. Appendix C: Portfolio Justifications
  19. Appendix D: How Your Mind Plays Tricks
    1. Filtering
    2. Distorted Inference
    3. Bolstering
  20. Acknowledgments
  21. Notes
  22. About the Author