We have heard the old adage of “Mistakes are learning” being banded around especially in trainings and workshops. This adage is what I call a half-truth; it is only true with certain conditions being met first. In fact, this particular adage about mistake is a classic example of a half-truth.
Mistakes can only produce learning or become learning only when it has gone through a few stages.
The crucial first step after a mistake is done is admitting to the mistake. Without admission, the mistake has not being recognised as a mistake; it is just an event that has produced an undesirable result or outcome.
The second step is the reflection phase where we need to relook back what what happened; what actions were taken or not taken, what was said or not said, what was present or missing. This needs to be done in all neutrality. There shouldn’t be any fear or favour. Brutally honesty and openness is needed in this phase.
The third step is the making sense phase where we will need to start connecting the reflection bits to previously held beliefs, past patterns, usual actions, the effectiveness of those actions, how efficient were we etc so that we can derive to a conclusion or wisdom starts to emerge from the reflected bits. This is where the mistake finally becomes a learning.
There is a forth step that will make the mistake an effective learning. Because at this juncture, the learning is just a learning still left in the intellectual domain. Making a decision on the learning and applying the learning is the step that will take the learning to the level of effective learning.