Sunday, October 07, 2012

Some Tragedies Aren't Tragic At All

In one of the most recent issues of Wired Magazine, Ben Paynter wrote a piece titled The Fire Next Time (2012, p. 21), which focused on the perception that close calls are something to be celebrated. Some bloggers have already commented on this article, and I would like to add something to his point, which may be way off point.

For some time now, I have been chatting with a few of my friends about issues and problems in the world, especially in situations close to us. I often I say that "some tragedies aren't tragic at all", which is my way of pointing out how disasters and tragedies are often cumulative effects; an atomistic compilation of various bad decisions. Before you go to jail on your third strike, you must accumulate two strikes before that one. In every aspect of life we see how misfortunes can accumulate into something worse. Based on Paynter's point, not only can we witness a bad behavioral approach to mistakes or bad decisions in organizations, but we can clearly visualize it in everyday life.

In golf, most good players will tell you that they never follow up a bad shot with another bad shot. But what if the bad shot turns out okay? Will we correct our errors on the course, or count it all victory? And what happens when the same swing, in a different situation, creates disaster for us in the result of a shot that lands in the center of a lake? Can this bad outcome be traced to some previous action that was noted as a success? The dangerous thinking stems from viewing success as a destination, and not a continual process. In academics, a math test can reveal the exact same correct answers in a given classroom, but the process to getting the answer may tell a different story, which is much more relevant to the overall success of the student. Where one student used the correct process, another guessed the answer, while another copied the answer from the one that guessed the answer. I believe this problem in our societal thinking is what Mr. Paynter is talking about.

I will leave this blog entry with a basic statement.

There's not much we can learn from success, and plenty to learn from failure and misfortune. Both deserve the attention and scrutiny necessary to make the improvements necessary to be successful in the future.

Paynter, B. (2012). The Fire Next Time. Wired Magazine, August 2012, pp. 21.

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