Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Distinctive Kinds of Mistakes

"(I)t takes confident nonprofit leaders not only to share their mistakes, but also to bet their reputations on taking corrective action or going back to the drawing boards...I'm surprised...by how many high-profile leaders duck this responsibility..."

Robert Giloth, Nonprofit Leadership

But mistakes are not all cut from the same clothe. Two groups with provocative names demonstrate the need for distinctions about mistakes. The Association for the Advancement of Failure, www.shippai.org/, of Japan is an effort, largely led by engineers, to encourage innovation and the building of a more competitive economy through increased business risk-taking. The Sorry Works Coalition,http://www.blogger.com/www.sorryworks.net, of the midwest urges health-care institutions to admit medical errors, find out what went wrong, and develop remedies for the families as well as the institutions.

Innovation failure involves inventing new approaches or trying old approaches in new environments or with new partners in the hope of hitting a homerun. Sometimes you strike out, and in the process learn something important. Medical errors are failures that derive from the replication of known procedures over and over in high risk, complex environments where lack of attention and accuracy can have dire impacts. Promoting innovation requires a supportive culture tolerant of mistakes. Avoiding medical errors requires mindful diligence; and accountability for medical errors requires "saying you're sorry" and doing something about it.

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