Table of Contents

I Definitely Screwed Up In 2012… Did You?

We spend a lot of time calculating the number of hours we spend in formal training events.  Social media, coaching and mentoring are hot topics when it comes to informal learning.  But what about learning from our mistakes?  It seems to me there is a lot of anxiety and fear around owning and learning from mistakes.  I know that some of my most powerful and longest-lasting learning experiences come from mistakes I’ve made.   

A Mistake of Legendary Proportions

Legend has it that there was an IBM executive who once made a multi-million dollar mistake.  Realizing what he had done, he approached the CEO, Thomas Watson Jr., and offered his resignation.  Watson refused to fire him, explaining that he had just invested millions of dollars on his education, so why would he fire him now?  This episode was highlighted in Roy Saunderson’s excellent column from Training magazine about learning from our mistakes.

Be All That You Can Be: Reflecting on Mistakes

As long as learning occurs, mistakes can be an extremely valuable component of informal learning in an organization.  In The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge (the man who coined the term “learning organization”) suggests individuals and organizations can take a page out of the way the U.S. Army continues to grow and learn from mistakes that occur in both training and on the battlefield: the after action review (AAR).  An AAR basically asks what lessons can be taken away from the gap between what you intended to have take place and what actually took place.

An After Action Review in Action

As 2012 draws to a close, I confess that I’ve made a number of mistakes.  The fact that I rarely take the time to reflect on what can be learned from these errors compounds my mistakes.  Following is one of my bigger mistakes of the year and what I’m taking away from it. 

My Intention: Last spring, I was the project manager for a major in-person event that would bring together dozens of eye care professionals from eye banks across India.  Since they would be stuck in meeting rooms for two days (as opposed to restoring sight to the blind, per their normal schedule), I wanted to be sure this was a good use of their time.  I gave lesson plan templates to everyone scheduled to present.  I implored my colleagues to plan sessions that would engage our audience, making sure that value would be taken away from the meeting.

The Actual Results: Post-event feedback forms indicated that our participants seemed to enjoy the session, but I felt we could have done better. For the most part, PowerPoint ruled the two day meeting.  Jet-lagged, sleep deprived and frustrated, I spent significant amounts of time voicing my disappointment with my teammates; I just didn’t feel there was much participant engagement.  My teammates were taken aback by my disappointment and felt some of my comments to them were out of line.

Lessons Learned

  1. Take drugs.  It’s now clear that I need to get a prescription for Ambien.  Jetlag and sleep deprivation suppress my generally calm outward demeanor and remove the filter from my generally diplomatic communication style.  I felt it was a badge of honor to not need a pill in order to sleep after traveling halfway around the world.  There is nothing honorable about walking around in a sleep-deprived, grumpy mood. 
  2. Plan smarter. I used time during our regularly scheduled team meetings to ensure the project was on track – primarily in a big picture sense.  Lesson plans were submitted for review and I made comments, but I never followed up to make sure lesson plans had been revised.  In hindsight, I should have checked in individually with teammates since they were generally unfamiliar with lesson plans, instructional design principles or adult learning theory. 
  3. Chill. Perhaps the most important take-away of this episode is that holding others to high standards is perfectly fine, but it must be done with grace.

Four months later, I actually took the second lesson (plan smarter) to heart in planning another meeting in India and the training delivery was a smashing success.  When I return in March for our next major meeting, I will do so with Ambien in hand.  I’m still working on the “chill” part.

What Did You Learn in 2012?

Enough about me, how about you?  When you think of a mistake from this year, what was your intended outcome?  What actually happened?  What have you been able to learn from it?  Is there something others might be able to learn from it?  The comment section is waiting.  Are you willing to share a little about your mistake-based education from 2012?

Articles Similar to I Definitely Screwed Up In 2012… Did You?

Developing an L&D “playbook”

There are two big cliches in the world of L&D: “We need a seat at the table” and “We can’t just be order takers”. Those are merely platitudes unless we have actions to back them up. Brandon Carson offers some thoughts on actions we should be taking.

Kevin Yates on L&D
Assessment and Evaluation
Brian Washburn

What it means to be an “L&D Detective”

If they made a “Law & Order”-style television series about the world of learning and development, one of the characters might be based upon Kevin Yates, a real-life L&D detective who is constantly in search of the impact and value of training initiatives.

Weighing time versus money for training
Business of Training
Tim Waxenfelter

Real Cost of Instructor-Led Training

Developing a training program in-house doesn’t make it “free”. Use this calculator to determine the cost of instructor-led training.

The business case for learning with Chris Pirie
Business of Training
Brian Washburn

The Business Case for Learning

Recessions and economic downturns happen. Many of us have worked – or tried to work – through more than one economic downturn. As training departments

Subscribe to Get Updates from Endurance Learning

Brian Washburn, Author

Brian Washburn
CEO & Chief Ideas Guy

Enter your information below and we’ll send you the latest updates from our blog. Thanks for following!

Find Your L&D Career Path

Explore the range of careers to understand what role might be a good fit for your L&D career.

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the What’s Possible in L&D Worksheet.

What's possible in L&D

Let's Talk Training!

Brian Washburn

Brian Washburn
CEO & Chief Ideas Guy

Enter your information below and we’ll get back to you soon.

Download the Feedback Lesson Plan

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the lesson plan as a PDF.

feedback lesson plan
MS Word Job Aid Template

Download the Microsoft Word Job Aid Template

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the Word version of this template.

Download the Free Lesson Plan Template!

Enter your email below and we’ll send you a Word document that you can start using today!

free lesson plan template
training materials checklist

Download the Training Materials Checklist

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the Training Materials Checklist.

Subscribe to Endurance Learning for updates

Get regular updates from the Endurance Learning team.